on politics, privacy, parenting, and the planet.
Everything I need to know, I will learn from my children. r.b.
what's on your mind?
(+ is new update)
Tuesday, December 31
Okay, I thought that had no more entries for the year and then I wandered onto Alas, a Blog. This Flash piece was referenced, it had been discovered earlier on boingboing. I love this. Use the arrow keys to control the gentleman and explore the world in any direction. You'll encounter the unexpected. It is addictive. It is a good way to while away the last hours of 2002. Check it out.
2003: The Future
What does the future hold for our new year? War, almost certainly. One or two new conservative appointees to the U.S. Supreme Court, probably. An upturn in the economy, not very likely.
These are events that more or less we can expect. Other things though will certainly happen. Things that we cannot imagine, as we sit at our computers today. A day, an event, a moment can change everything. We know that September 11th changed our lives, but changes can be more personal, more intimate and just as unexpected. The changes that these unexpected moments bring can be frightening and they can be life fulfilling. My life changed in an instant when someone spilled a glass of wine.
Monday, December 302002: The Lists
Bye Bye 2002. We hardly knew you. By many accounts 2002 wasn't a good year. It was typified by a perpetually bad stock market; scurrilous ethical, moral and legal behavior by greedy corporate executives; a bad job market; whittling away of environmental protections; the dismantling of civil liberties; a mainstream press that bolstered a morally corrupt administration; intractable violence between Israel and the Palestinians; constant reminders of the "war on terrorism" and an increasingly negative world view of the United States.
The year in review? The 10 best? The 10 worst? What follows are my lists. None of them is complete. None of them have 10 entries. The lengths vary according to my whim. The entries are political and personal. First a memorial.
In Memoriam. George, the cat.
My wife's cat, George, died in May. He was 15 years old and was a role model of perseverance and adaptability. George was blind and deaf since birth, and for the last 5 years of his life had only his front four teeth (ironically the "canines"). To top it off, he was a Manx -- so he had no tail. But George's tale is not one of woe. George adapted to seven different homes in ten years. He let nothing slow him down. Although he was blind he could always find his way. When he moved to a new house George would slowly and determinedly walk along the walls around each room. In this way he left a scent trail. Our current house is the largest that he ever lived in, but he was undeterred. After casing his new environment he was unimpeded in his wanderings in the house. Nothing could stop George. He persevered until he understood where all the doors were, where the various bedrooms were located, where the litter box had been placed out of the way and where his food bowls were set. Too George always knew where my wife was when he wanted to be pet. He loved her to scratch under his chin. He really loved this. Scratching his chin was a prolonged endeavor and since he had few teeth a little messy. When George was purring he drooled a lot.
Our daughter loved to play with that cat. He was very good natured and tolerated her sometimes excited and too rough play. George had a blood clot in his heart and died very suddenly one early afternoon in May. Our daughter has our other cat to play with, but that cat is very different from George. Our son will never know him. George led a happy life and is missed.
When George would finish eating his canned cat food he would wail like a victorious alpha male lion who had just finished off his fresh kill. This was both endearing and annoying. Sometimes, when the house is quiet, we can still hear George proclaiming his victory to the world.
Friday, December 27War for the New Year?
It sure looks like Bush wants us to be at war with Iraq soon after the New Year begins:
The Pentagon has ordered a number of military units put on alert for rapid deployment to the Persian Gulf, Fox News learned Friday.
After taxes, he will clear $113.4 million once the money transfers among the 25 members of the Multi-State Lottery Association are complete on Jan. 14, officials said. But Mr. Whittaker, who is known as Jack, said he would tithe, as has been his monthly practice for years, according to his gross income.What would you do with $315 million? Would you keep blogging? Hell, I'd have so much free time, maybe that is all that I'd do. :-)
Don't you think that at some point enough money is enough. Would you really know the difference or be disappointed if you only won $100 million instead of $315 million? Have you noticed any difference in public education (or wherever your state's lotto proceeds are supposed to go) since lotto started? Don't get me wrong, I play lotto too, but I haven't seen any tangible benefits to the schools in California. Maybe the payouts should max at $100 million. Any money over that amount should be credited to the next high drawing and a portion of that "excess" should go to the schools for example. I bet that the people who are drawn to play when lotto is $315 million are also compelled to play when it is a measly $100 million.
As I write this I keep hearing that Barnaked Ladies song, If I had a Million Dollars, I'd ...It doesn't seem like much money in the face of this lotto winning. There was a time that $1 million was the dreamed for amount. That was what people felt they needed to relax, be comfortable, provide for their children and pursue their dreams. Where is that number now? Is $20 million enough?
"Spending is more subdued because for three years, economists have been telling people that the situation would get better. And instead, it got worse."
-BURT FLICKINGER III, of Strategic Resource Group, a retail consulting firm.
Holiday sales are at decade lows. Mortgage rates are lower than anyone imagined they could be. There really isn't any bright news about the economy. Bush's proposed tax cuts are oly going to make things worse for most of us. In California we are expecting to lay off between 7000 and 14,000 state employees. These people won't be able to get many jobs in the the private sector because of the slow economy, so they will be unemployed for the foreseeable future. These people will not have money that they can use to "stimulate" the economy. Also, each state agency is facing budget cuts so capital expenditures will be delayed. No remodeling, no new furniture, no new computers or printers. Only employees who have to have a cell phone or a PDA will get them. Vendors that deal with the state will be hurt.
Counties and cities will be getting fewer dollars from the state. That means that they may have to consider layoffs and cut backs in services. They certainly will curtail purchases and capital improvements. The ripple effect of the recession will be felt in every part of the state. I expect that it will take 3 years for the economy to recover. It will be a long 3 years.
Bush Inc. seems to be active over the holidays. They clearly hope that no one will notice. In light of their activity I may be more active today than I had expected.
First, the environment. For more than a decade. Actually since Bush Senior was President, the U.S. has had a policy of "no net loss" of wetlands. This has meant that whenever development destroyed a wetland the developer had to create a new wetland of equal size. This policy hasn't been perfect because it has still allowed the destruction of wetlands and the resultant negative impacts on birds and other species. Also, wetlands improve water quality and provide natural flood prevention since they can absorb much of the rising water. Destroying wetlands removes this natural protective barrier. However, the "no net loss" policy has mitigated many of the negative impacts by requiring new wetlands. Almost a year ago the Bush Jr. administration issued a "guidance letter" that allowed for mitigation other than new wetlands whenever wetlands were destroyed by development. This letter was soundly attacked by environmentalists. Yesterday Bush Jr released a modified version of the "guidance letter". But this revised plan doesn't go far enough.
Under the revised plan wetlands can still be destroyed, but the destruction must be avoided whenever possible. In addition, instead of creating new wetlands developers may be permitted to create "vegetation buffer zones". Don't be fooled. These aren't wetlands. They do not proved the water quality, habitat and flood protection benefits of a wetlands, but they look nice. To my mind these buffer zones are the equivalent of the tree buffers that line roads and shield passers by from seeing clearcuts. In other words the vegetation will look nice and to anyone who doesn't question it that will be enough.
Clearly Bush hopes that by throwing a bone to environmentalists, by adding the hope that wetlands will not be destroyed, that this will be enough to placate most people. In other words this change may make the issue just complicated enough to avoid much public debate. We must watch everything that this administration does. Read this for more information and here for the Army Corps of Engineers, but the revised guidelines are not on the site yet.
Thursday, December 26U.S. Interrogations
I'm still on Holiday but this story was in the paper. Unfortunately, the fact that the U.S. is likely torturing terrorism prisoners shouldn't come as a surprise. What else were we to think over the past year when we have read, "months after being captured" so and so reveals "plot". Did we really think that they decided to talk because of our hospitality? Also, the fact that few of those captured are on U.S. soil should have been another clue. I guess that the theory is that you can't break the law if you don't do it on U.S soil. That may technically be true -- I don't know, but what is done by our government is done in our name.
This isn't news. We all should have known or at the very least suspected.....
Deep inside the forbidden zone at the U.S.-occupied Bagram air base in Afghanistan, around the corner from the detention center and beyond the segregated clandestine military units, sits a cluster of metal shipping containers protected by a triple layer of concertina wire. The containers hold the most valuable prizes in the war on terrorism -- captured al Qaeda operatives and Taliban commanders.
Monday, December 23Ho Ho Ho
I will be taking the next few days off from work and from blogging in order to celebrate Christmas with family and friends.
Merry Christmas !!
I don't intend to have a regular Nestle blog. However, Nestle is in the news a lot lately, Nestle is a multinational corporation for whom the bottom line is sacrosanct. That is the danger posed by large corporations. The very ones that support Bush. The side effects of a business practice mean nothing if a handsome pofit can be made. Last week it was holding Ethiopia hostage. Now it is threatening the livelihood of dairy farmers in Pakistan and overcharging consumers. Check out the latest on Nestle.
Sunday, December 22TIA Project Goes Covert?
The incredible shrinking website.
A while back I wrote about and linked to the Total Information Awareness Project (TIAP). Ruminate This notes that the Total information Awareness office website is shrinking. A week or so ago the staff biographies disappeared. Now the big brother logo and the "knowledge is power" slogan have vanished. The homepage looks naked now.
Thank God for Google and caches. It is ironic that the government that intends to track everything that we do, doesn't understand how the internet functions. Nothing disappears completely. Ruminate This has the logo. If you haven't seen it, take a look. It makes you wonder what they were thinking. It tells you how arrogant they were.
The shrinking website is either a sign that they are being enlightened about their project and civil rights or, more likely, they are just going to go further underground. What we don't know, we can't use against them.
Bad Economy is Clinton's Fault ?
Bush Jr.'s newest argument for curtailing business regulations is that those regulations have held up the economy. In case you had any doubts, letting business do as it pleases is the same as promoting a "good economy". That this "good economy' must be promoted at the expense of our health and safety, is apparently of no concern. Those are just collateral damage. This is a corporate president like none other.
"One of the things that has really held back the economy has been the regulatory onslaught that started in the late Clinton years...the White House is scrutinizing hundreds of federal rules that industry leaders and others say are too costly and burdensome. ....The Bush administration likes to argue that Clinton used executive orders to implement policy on matters that he couldn't get through Congress and that Bush is only doing the same thing. The big difference is that Clinton's policies (for the most part) were pro environment, pro-choice, pro aid for the elderly and poor. Bush's policies across the board are designed to benefit big business and big business alone.
That brings up a pet peeve. Why can the GOP get away with complaining about "special Interests" that influence the Democratic party --- that usually means labor and sometimes "Hollywood". But no one ever calls big business a special interest. Well it is a special interest. The interests of large corporations are certainly different than my interests. And, as personified by Bush, corporate interests are antithetical to mine.
This couldn't happen here, right?
As Ministers warned Downing Street and Cabinet Office officials that they were in danger of 'scaring the public witless' with a string of terror alerts.I mean, Bush would never issue unnecessary terrorist warnings.... Of course, he would never try to control pubic opinion by scaring us. Although these do help to distract us from what is happening domestically...
Friday, December 20Poindexter Awareness Project
Spying on John Poindexter. Ann Salisbury has a link today to a San Jose Mercury News story on the Poindexter Awareness Project. Poindexter wants to spy on us, so the project is spying on him.
Internet activists have a message for John Poindexter, the head of a controversial Pentagon research project to find terrorists by searching the everyday transactions of Americans: Threaten to invade our privacy, we'll invade yours.And be sure to check out the official Poindexter Awareness Project website! Here is a satellite photo of his home. I must admit that I am a little uncomfortable about the array of information provided on the site, but its existence might get the point across about how important our privacy rights really are. The TIA Project is isn't an academic exercise John, you intend to affect our lives.
Gored by the Media Bull
Check out Paul Waldman's article discussing why the press attacked and attacks Al Gore. It is good food for thought. He concludes that,
Reporters' view of Gore is an exaggerated version of their view of politicians in general: conniving, manipulative, driven by the lust for power, a persona rather than a person, someone from whom nothing can be taken at face value. The lesson of Gore's press coverage is that reporters' personal views about candidates matter, but not in the ideological sense of liberal reporters boosting Democrats and conservative reporters boosting Republicans. While it may be true that a majority of reporters vote Democratic, they savaged Gore and continue to give glowing coverage to John McCain, a conservative Republican who treats them like buddies, seldom refuses to go on record and is generally fun to be around. The men seeking the opportunity to face Bush in 2004 might consider this as they prepare their campaigns.
Nestle Back's Down, A Little
Public protest is working, in Europe at least. As the week began Nestle had been demanding that Ethiopia -- famine stricken Ethiopia -- make good on a past due payment of $6 million. Oxfam organized a protest campaign. 8,500 people e-mailed Nestle to complain about its actions. Nestle feared a European boycott of its products and has begun to back down on its demands.
The company promised to invest any money it receives from Ethiopia back in the country after receiving thousands of emails of protest in response to the story in yesterday's Guardian.Ethiopia has offered to pay $1.5 million. It remains to be seen what the final outcome will be, but Nestle is beginning to have a change of heart.
The Brits are Getting Ready for War
Tony Blair today delivered a direct message to British forces to be prepared for action against Iraq if Saddam Hussein fails to comply with demands to disarm.This announcement came on the heels of Powell's declaration that Iraq was in "material breach" of its obligations under the UN resolutions. We knew that no matter what Iraq did that Bush would declare a breech, but it was sooner than I had expected. Clearly, Bush's wars stop for no one.
With the deployments currently under way, President George Bush could go to war soon after January 27, when the chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, is to report to the UN security council on the progress of the inspections.Mark your calendars. The war has been scheduled.
The Word of the Year?
The SF Chron is runing a word of the year contest. One entry that I like is "google" as a verb. The six words that are the finalists are: Enron, homeland, nukular, pre-emptive, sniper and WMD.
Wal-Mart Broke The Law
My Wal-Mart bashing wasn't intended to continue, but then I happened upon this story...A Portland jury on Thursday found retail giant Wal-Mart guilty of forcing employees at 18 Oregon stores to work overtime without pay from 1994 to 1999.
Thursday, December 19Walmart.com Sucks
Okay I'm pissed. I ordered a Christmas gift for my nephew from Walmart.com. My froogle search showed that WalMart.com had the best price. I ordered a "Bop-It Extreme" and batteries for it. Two days ago my sister called and said that my nephew got a box from WalMart.com, but that only batteries were in it. Tha seemed weird to say the least, and highly inefficient. I told her not to worry, that the real gift was on its way. Boy was that wrong. Today while checking personal e-mail I noticed that I had a message from WalMart.com.
Thank you for shopping at Wal-Mart.Huh? I hadn't cancelled my order. What did this mean? I sent an e-mail to their customer (dis)service address and received a boilerplate meaningless response. So I tried their customer (dis)service toll free number. A dozen attempts later I got a ring tone only to find myself in voicemail hell. After listening to Christmas carols and the same messages over and over again -- if you want" X" push "2" etc. -- for 15 minutes I was connected to a customer (dis)service representative. "Robert" (yes that was the name that he gave), who works out of a call center in Mississippi, checked my order for me.
My order for the Bop-it Extreme had indeed been cancelled. WalMart had cancelled it! "The item is out of stock and delivery could not be guaranteed by Christmas. So the order was cancelled." I asked why the e-mail cancellation message didn't explain any of this? He simply repeated that, "The item is out of stock and delivery could not be guaranteed by Christmas. So the order was cancelled."
And he apologized for the inconvenience. He asked if my other order had been delivered. "Yes," I told him, "My nephew received his batteries." What was he to do with the batteries? How could this have happened? Robert explained that all orders -- even if placed together -- are handled separately. Thus, batteries were in stock and shipped. Bop-It was out of stock and not shipped. I was billed for batteries and shipping. That would not be refunded! But if I wanted too I could bring the batteries into a store for a refund on the purchase price. That wouldn't work. I couldn't ask my nephew (who is 2000 miles away) to return the batteries. Even if he did, it still didn't get me reimbursed for the shipping costs.
Yes, I was getting angrier as the call proceeded. Throughout the call, Robert kept apologizing "for the inconvenience". I had had enough. I wasn't inconvenienced. I was robbed!
I couldn't believe that Wal-Mart wouldn't credit my account for the now useless batteries and the shipping. I asked for his supervisor. After a minute or two Robert came back on the phone. His supervisor was too busy to take my call! Robert repeated that someone could return the batteries to a local WalMart and get a refund for them. Again he apologized for the inconvenience.
In short. For Christmas I sent my nephew three batteries. Total cost, including shipping, was approximately $9.50! (Robert couldn't tell me the exact amount of my charges so I won't know until I get my credit card statement next month.) Now I have to figure out what to do. How do I find a Bop-It and get it to him by Tuesday?
Surreal California Deficit
Almost every state has budget deficits this year, but California has a doozy of a deficit. California rode high, very high, during the dot com craze. Now this state is reeling from the effects. Most of the state budget is based on income tax. Obviously, as incomes have declined so have revenues. THE state may lay off more than 7000 people and cut funding provided to counties and municipalities. This will have a ripple effect throughout the entire state and the private sector. The projected deficit at this point in time is $35 billion. It has been growing over the last few months, so you never know when it will top out. If you want to learn more about how bad it is read this.
To put this number in prospective, consider that this deficit amount exceeds the total annual budget of every state except New York.
New to the blogroll... See The Forest. If you haven't already, check it out. I have been meaning to write about Venezuela, but haven't been able to get a handle on the issues. The whole uprising seems counterintuitive to me. Chavez is revered by the poor. Such an orchestrated uprising against him seems suspicious. Now who would want to destabilize a leftist government? For information on Venezuela and ideas as to what is really going on read this, and this. And check out Issue Guy's links today for information about the Christian right's investment in electronic voting machine companies. When it comes to elections, it is the person who counts the votes that matters. And thanks are due to Rittenhouse for first turning me on to See The Forest.
Wednesday, December 18
Airport Security Detects Malpractice
It took an airport metal detector to give a Canadian woman a clue to why she was suffering from persistent stomach aches four months after having abdominal surgery.
A 30-centimeter (11.7-inch) long, 5 cm wide surgical retractor, used to hold incisions open, had been left in her abdomen after surgery.
Tuesday, December 17Military Limits on Wi-Fi,
I depend on wireless connections at home and my wife likes to log-in while passing the time in a local coffee shop. Some of that may change. Particularly the expansion of networks at cafes, airports and the like. The military says that Wi-Fi internet connections interfere with 10 radar systems. The military won't be able to curb Wi-Fi use, but it might be able to restrict its expansion. The result will be increased congestion on existing frequencies. I think that battle lines are being drawn.
The Defense Department, arguing that that an increasingly popular form of civilian wireless Internet access could interfere with U.S. military radar systems, is seeking new limits on the technology, which has been seen as a rare bright spot for the gloomy communications industry.
Lott the Liberal
Oh my Gawd! Some conservatives think that Lott is toooooo liberal. What world are they living in? What world am I living in? These people have their guy in the White House!
Their animus is helping propel the challenge to Lott by Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma, one of the few Senate Republicans who is arguably more conservative than the Mississippian......This frightening news from the LATimes, that I learned of via Tom Spencer. Or maybe Lott is just a dumb conservative. He admitted that he was a racist. Others won't be as blunt. That is why they want Nickles.
Monday, December 16Chretien Signs Kyoto Treaty
Canada signed the Kyoto treaty today. With this action a total of more than 95 countries have signed on, including the entire European Union, Japan, Norway and New Zealand. Russian ratification, expected soon, would meet the crucial threshold needed for the accord to take effect. In signing the treaty, Chretien did what I always thought elected officials were supposed to do. He heard strident opposition to the treaty, but he signed despite the uproar. He signed because he believed that helping with air pollution was important for Canada. That it was important for the world.
At the treaty signing he declared that climate change has to be dealt with, "like it or not."
Chretien said after he signed the document. "This is very important for future generations."It is refreshing to hear a nation's representative take a long term view. This is something that Bush could never do. The efforts to fight pollution in the U.S. are being dismantled by the Bush cabal. Bush's only interest is short term gain for his corporate buddies. It doesn't' matter to him what the world will look like in 50 years. He won't be here. I won't be here either, but I would like the air that my children breathe to be cleaner than the air that I have breathed. I would like the world that my children live in to rejoice that global warming was halted, rather than suffer the climate changes that it will bring about.
I wonder what Bush thinks about his children's future? I wonder what the world is like that he pictures his daughters' children living in? Maybe he doesn't think about their future. Maybe he doesn't' dream about a better world. Maybe he doesn't dream at all. That would explain a lot.
From the THE BEAST 50 MOST LOATHSOME PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Entry number 9:
According to Bush, since the wealthy pay so much in taxes, it may be necessary to shift more of the tax load onto lower-income workers. Ted Barlow has a good discussion of the absurdness of this policy. Bush is just benefiting his friends -- and himself -- at the expense of the nation. Tom Spencer has comments too.
Sunday, December 15No Gore in 2004
Al Gore declared that he wants to "contribute to ending the current administration." But that he won't do it as a Presidential candidate. This is a good thing since he was and is an uninspiring candidate. Too, he has been very outspoken lately. Politicians running for office moderate their speech. An outspoken Gore, who commands national attention, will be a thorn in Bush's side.
Friday, December 13Privacy and Personal Responsibility
Zem has a good wake up call for all of us. The letter that Zem quotes from reminds us that protecting our privacy is ultimately our own responsibility.
I lived in Vienna for a year. At Christmas one of the customs that I found most endearing was the celebration of KrisKindl -- the Christ Child. There was no Santa Claus in Vienna then. KrisKindl Markts that sold crafts were a popular place to buy gifts. But somehow without Santa the holiday and the celebrations seemed more spiritual and much less commercial. The Pro-Christkind Association, has been formed in Austria. The Association's goal is to prevent the secular Santa from muscling aside their venerated religious figure.
There's an unwelcome guest at Vienna's famous Christmas market these days who lurks among stalls that sell hot punch and kitschy baubles, and hands out sweets to children, casting his bulky shadow over the crib that depicts the birth of Jesus.The homogenization of the world and the disappearance of local customs harms all of us in the long run.
The GOP's Hypocrisy
Reprinted from todays' NYTimes.
The Other Face
Finally, some good news...
Cardinal Bernard Law, under intense pressure in the church sex abuse scandal, resigned as Boston archbishop, the Vatican announced.
Star Trek: Nemesis opens today. Yes, I am a trekkie. A "Next Generation" trekkie, to be precise. I could never get into Shatner and company -- although they disagree. But Jean-Luc, now there is a role model. Although this reviewer didn't like the movie I will see it anyway.
An environmental victory... A day after the White House proposed speeding up environmental reviews for forest thinning and moved to limit the ability of environmental groups to add species to the endangered list, the environment got a boost. A federal appeals court in San Francisco reinstated the Clinton-era ban on road construction in nearly 60 million acres of national forests, The Clinton-era plan was intended to prevent road construction and the removal of oil and lumber in 58.5 million acres of forest land, unless needed for environmental reasons or to reduce the risk of wildfires.
Thursday, December 12Privacy and Agency Consolidation
The effort to create the Homeland Security Department involves the integration of 22 different organizations into the one Department. This involves major technological, privacy and security hurdles. In order to integrate, the hundreds of separate databases currently maintained by the different agencies, federal officials must address a lack of interoperability among the agencies' systems. They also need to address privacy concerns. How will the new department consolidate, handle and secure sensitive data?
The agency needs to be able to cross check data, while at the same time protect each individuals' privacy. At least for now, Robert Shepherd, the Office of Homeland Security's director of information integration, is saying the right things about protecting privacy. We'll have to follow this process closely to see how much concern the Bush administration will really have about privacy.
We need to be very careful on how we define appropriate information and appropriate people," Shepherd said. "The privacy implications [of the integration] are enormous. We don't want to become a case study in business schools on how not to do this."It is that very balance that has me uneasy. An administration that undertakes a project like the Total Information Awareness Project can't be trusted to protect our privacy.
See the Daily Kos for a good rationale as to why the Republicans are supporting Lott and don't want him to resign. I hadn't realized that a Democrat might be appointed in his place. That would sure put Bush in a pickle.
Bush Replies to me
Well sort of. I wrote to the White House to express my concern about the Total Information Awareness Project. The White House sent this response. I wonder what abyss my message was dropped in to? Will they now be tracking my name and e-mail address? The reply:
Thank you for emailing President Bush. Your ideas and comments are very important to him.Is "email" now a word? When did the hyphen drop off? Inquiring minds want to know.
Wednesday, December 11
"It is clear that global challenges must be met by an emphasis on peace, in harmony with others, with strong alliances and international consensus. Imperfect as it may be, there is no doubt that this can best be done through the United Nations. For powerful countries to adopt a principle of preventive war," he later added, "may well set an example that can have catastrophic consequences."
"War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other's children.
California officials charge that a Bush administration plan to achieve lower smog levels in about a decade could perversely mean more pollution in the meantime. Although the administration has not released its plan publicly, Environmental Protection Agency officials have outlined their proposal in conversations with the states.
At present, the federal government requires the states to hold hourly ozone levels below federally established standards. The EPA is converting to a system that will measure average ozone levels over eight hours.
The "Security Alert," pop-up ads are the subject of a lawsuit. You have seen these ads. They warn you that, ""Your computer is currently broadcasting an Internet IP Address. With this address someone can immediately begin attacking your computer." The class action seeks to represent everyone in the United States who has received a banner like those from Bonzi. That would be everyone who has surfed the web in the last few months, I would expect. The suit charges the company with violating laws that safeguard against public nuisance and deceptive business practices. The suit seeks to enjoin Bonzi from sending such ads in the future and it seeks $500 for every person who was received a deceptive ad from the company, and for the company to pay $5 for every banner it has delivered with the warning messages.
The lawsuit, filed Nov. 25 in the Superior Court of Washington State, is one of the first to bring public discontent over some type of Internet advertising to the courtroom. It charges San Luis Obispo, Calif.-based Bonzi Software with hoodwinking millions of Internet users into clicking to its Web site via the ads.This ad isn't even the worst. The worst one to me is a pop-up that has a graphic of a monkey (?) on it and won't let you close it without force quitting from the browser. If you don't force quit you end up toggling back and forth between an ad for the University of Phoenix and the "monkey graphic page". Let's sue them all.
Tuesday, December 10No Child Left Behind
In January of this year Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). NCLB has its own website to tout its greatness. This law represents Bush's education reform plan. Republicans talk about the need for less government. That is ironic since this Act gives the federal government a large role in local education. Ostensibly each state can set its own education goals. But the federal government is more active in kindergarten-through-grade-12 education since schools are required to describe their success in terms of what each student accomplishes and the government administers a national test. The Act's main focus is on school accountability for results. If schools don't produce results they lose funding. Some of the sections have laudatory goals. For instance one section calls for schools to teach civics:
SEC. 2342. PURPOSE.Students should learn civics in school. Every high school graduate should have a good understanding of the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights -- especially in these times. However, toward the end of this massive (675 page) bill one finds sections designed to protect school prayer (Section 9524) and to set parameters for sex education. For instance, abstinence must be taught as part of the curriculum. Remember, "Just Say No"? (Section 9526) These requirements create policy, conservative policy, through funding legislation. This is something that Republicans are supposed to be against. Clearly, these hypocrites are only against this type of legislation when it contains policies with which they disagree. These statutory teaching requirements are insidious. Most parents don't know what this Act requires schools to do in order to get funding, but schools will do what they have to do to get the funding.
For instance, schools must report the names, addresses, and telephone listings of secondary school students to military recruiters. (Section 9528). Parents have the option of requesting that this information not be released. Schools are to notify parents of this option, but in at least one instance I know that parents were not aware that they had this option. Their children are being assaulted with phone calls from recruiters. Some recruiters are even sending videotapes to show how much fun the army can be. I am sure that other schools have failed to notify parents of their rights. I understand the need for a strong defense, but I am offended by the strong arm tactics of this legislation. And in light of Bush's warmongering, our military is headed for offensive rather than defensive action. This administration needs bodies for its offensive maneuvers. Let's educate kids and then enlist them. After all all good patriots should be willing to fight, right?
If you think Bush and Cheney believe that last statement you should check out, "The Chickenhawk Database" to see how members of the Bush administration avoided the military. There is a separate site devoted to our commander in chief himself.
Chicken hawks believe that you should be willing, even grateful, to make the supreme sacrifice in spite of a crumbling economy, mega-billion-dollar thievery in corporate boardrooms and the gang-rape of the environment. Not to mention such ditties as the failure of the "war against terrorism" and little blemishes like the mass-murder war crimes of our Afghan allies, long reported in the world media and belatedly noted ... by the U.S. press....
Monday, December 9Dubya The Doll
Still need a Christmas gift for someone? Not interested in Chickendance Elmo or the 20th Anniversary Edition of Trivial Pursuit? How about a Bush doll? That's right, a guy in California is making Bush action figures complete with Bushisms, such as, "You're working hard to put food on your family."
The Dubya talking action figure is the brain child of John Warnock. When he is not coming up with in demand dolls, he remodels garages.
While at work I get an average of 100 e-mail messages a day. I thought that that was normal. However, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center I am in the unfortunate minority. The vast majority of workers (60%) receive 10 or fewer messages on an average day. Only 6% receive more than 50.
E-mail is an integral part of American workers’ lives. About 62% of all employed Americans have Internet access and virtually all of those (98%) use email on the job. That translates into more than 57 million American adults whom we will call “work emailers” throughout this report. Most of them use email daily for work tasks. But contrary to the perception that wired American workers are buried in email, the large majority of those who use email at work say their experience with email is manageable. They say they spend a modest amount of their typical workday reading and writing email. A portion of those emails probably replace telephone calls or faxes or traditional mail. For about half of American workers, email volume has grown in the last year; for the other half, it has remained the same.
You just have to feel that most airlines are mismanaged and doing something wrong. Southwest is profitable and hasn't sought a post 9/11 government loan. United fought for a loan, was denied and has filed for bankruptcy. American is headed in the same direction.
John Snow, the new choice for Secretary of the Treasury is not like you or me. According to NPR he made $20 million last year. I wonder if that was before or after taxes. I really wonder how well he would benefit from the Bush tax plan. Shouldn't he be conflicted out from working on this plan? Snow is rumored to be a good salesman. That is what Bush wants. Karl Rove is handling policy behind the scenes. Bush needed someone who would publicly walk the walk and talk the talk for him. O'Neill didn't always do as told. Snow the salesman will push the economic agenda while the rest of us are watching the war with Iraq on TV.
Mr Snow, has had a certain amount of economics training and some government experience. The 63-year-old holds a doctorate in economics and served in the transport department under former president, Gerald Ford, in the mid-1970s. More recently, as chairman of Business Roundtable, a lobby group for big companies, he has been a regular in Washington. He is best known as an advocate of balanced budgets and good corporate governance. Unusually among senior businessmen, he favours treating stock options as an expense on company balance sheets. His management style is said to be consensual.Speaking of Karl Rove, if you haven't already, be sure to check out No More Mister Nice Blog. In addition to the excellent commentary, the blog has the best political tag line that I have found -- "It's Karl Rove's World. We Just Live In It." We should always keep that in mind when dealing with Bush. Rove is the man behind the curtain.
Saturday, December 7Blogging Time
Bloggers amaze me. For the first time today, I've gotten a moment to log in and check out my blogroll. Almost every blog on the list has an entry for today -- Saturday. I am astounded that these people had time to write cogent and thoughtful blogs. And most bloggers do it every day. (Hey, I have a slogan for T-Shirts and bumper stickers. "Bloggers do it every day!" ) I have to plan to find time to maintain Byrd's Brain and it is a challenge to write something everyday. Although I am passionate about privacy and civil rights issues, the environment and the evil being done in our names by Poppy Jr. and his ilk, my world revolves around my family.
The Mrs. and I have a two year old girl and a ten week old boy. It is 9:30pm, the house is quiet and both children are asleep. Hopefully for the night -- for our daughter, and most of the night for our son. Our son is nursing so he sleeps in a bassinet beside our bed. Our daughter is asleep in her crib in her room. Today began like most days. I woke up, just before 6am. Although I didn't hear my daughter's voice I got up any way since she her routine is to be awake at 6 am. I walked to her door and heard her talking to her "big red dog". She was saying "toot toot toot, big red dog". Which was very cute to me since she knows a song by the Australian childrens' group, The Wiggles, called "Big Red Car". The refrain is "toot toot chuga chuga, big red car." Also, the big red dog is Clifford, but we don't let her watch the show, so it is just a "big red dog" to her. It is wonderful to listen to your children when they are alone. It gives you rare insight into how they think and play.
After listening outside her door for a few minutes I decided to wait before I got her. Why disturb her when she was having fun. The cat and I retreated to the top of the stairs. There I sat, petting the cat and looking out the window at the slowly brightening sky. Once I was comfortable and, lost in some thought, my daughter called for, "mommy, daddy." That was my cue. Time to go into her room and start her day. This is one of the best parts of the day. If she has slept well she is really happy. When I opened the door she immediately said, "good morning daddy". Happy dance time. For her happy dance she jumps up and down in her crib, pumping her arms up and down. Now my daughter can really jump. My wife and I won't be too surprised if she breaks the crib. We gave each other a big hug, she got a new diaper. (No she isn't potty trained yet. That is an issue. She regressed a little when her bother was born. We expect to be back on track with this training by the new year.)
She and I went downstairs to play and have breakfast. The Mrs. and our son came down a half hour or so later. We stretched breakfast out so that everyone ate. We skimmed/read the morning paper. Later, after everyone -- except our son -- showered, we loaded up the car and went on errands. And yes I do mean "loaded up the car". We have car seat we put our daughter in and a car seat for our son. Our daughter likes to climb into car and then into her seat herself. She doesn't like to have help. Of course, this means that it takes longer than one would think for us to have her buckled into her car seat. Also, we have to put our son into his car seat. For some reason he is okay sitting in his carseat if it is in the house, but as soon as we put it into the car he screams. It can take 5 or so minutes to soothe him. Today we had to drive away with him crying because he couldn't be soothed. Fortunately, he calmed down within minutes of our departure. If often takes more time. Also, we have a snack bag with crackers and juice for our daughter. We had to make sure this was filled before leaving. And we had to fill the always emptying diaper bag. You can't have too many diapers or wipes when venturing out with the children.
We shopped for artificial trees, but couldn't find any in town that we liked. In order to entertain our daughter and do some Christmas shopping we spent some time in a toy store. This particular store is very kid friendly. They have toys out for kids to play with and don't care that children are touching all of the merchandise. Our daughter loves this store. She like to play with the Brio train set the most. The store has one in an elaborate set-up on a table that is at toddler height. Next we picked up lunch at a sandwich shop, did a quick run through a grocery store and then got home to eat lunch at noon. My wife nursed our son while I got the lunches ready. We ate and put our children down for naps. I had planned to clean the kitchen floor and straighten. Instead I discovered that ants had invaded our pantry. They were coming from inside a wall. As I inspected I could see that they were on every shelf. I wiped and vacuumed up the ants and used tape to seal the gap between the molding and the floor. I hope that this slowed the ants down. I'll know in the morning. (We have had recent problems with ants. Our house seems to be on top of a giant ant hill. Ants have been streaming across our entry way and over the front door for days. They seem to enjoy the arsenic in the bait traps that I set. The ants have been in our laundry. Now they are in our food. While I dealt with the ants, my wife prepared soup for dinner. We were having friends over for dinner. They have a two year old son. He and our daughter are friends. So the house still had to be cleaned.
Once the house was clean, the soup was simmering and the apple pie was in the oven it was time for me to resume the Christmas tree hunt. This meant going to stores that were not in town. We try to support local merchants and buy only in our town, but our local tree options had been exhausted. I was compelled to venture further away. In the third store that I visited I found acceptable trees. I had trouble deciding between a 3 foot tree and a 6 foot tree. They both looked a little too artificial for my taste. Would the 6 footer fit on a tabletop? this was where we planned to place the tree. on a table, it would be out of a two year old's immediate reach. Should I get the 3 footer? It was sure to fit on a table. I got the 6 footer. It was only $10 more than the short one. I'll assemble it tomorrow. I'll learn tomorrow whether it fits on the table.
My wife is asleep. It is almost 11 pm. I'll be up by 6am. I had better publish this and be done.
Friday, December 6No Right to Bear Arms
A federal appeals court got it right, but we can expect the U.S. Supremes to reverse.
A federal appeals court, upholding California's assault-weapons ban, decided that the Second Amendment does not guarantee individuals the right to bear arms.
They aren't content with trying to expand oil drilling off the California coast or drilling in the ANWR. They aren't content to just gut the Clean Air Act. No, the Bush administration cabal attacks everything that it dislikes -- in this case the environment -- on all fronts. This from yesterday's NY Times.
A federal appeals court heard arguments today on whether a judge went too far in barring permits that allow coal companies to bury streams under rock and dirt removed from mountaintop mines.This administration changes policies through multi-pronged attacks, which for the most part are under most peoples' radar. This insidious approach to implementing public policy reflects a distrust and a dislike for the American people. This cabal operates under the arrogant belief that they are right and to hell with anyone who disagrees.
Thursday, December 5Thanks for the Links
I just wanted to say thanks to Lisa English, Ray Garraud and Jeff Cooper for their links to my site. If you haven't already, check out their sites. They have a lot to say.
U.S. Status in Decline
Bush Jr.'s warmongering is lowering the world's opinion of the U.S. No surprise there. Discontent with the United States has grown around the world in the past two years, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. The survey highlights conflicting attitudes about the United States. People around the world said they embrace American culture but decried U.S. influence on their societies. American unilateralism was criticized, though the U.S.-led war on terrorism enjoyed wide support outside the Muslim world. Moreover, from the Pew report it appears that there is a global malaise.
As 2002 draws to a close, the world is not a happy place. At a time when trade and technology have linked the world more closely together than ever before, almost all national publics view the fortunes of the world as drifting downward. A smaller world, our surveys indicate, is not a happier one.
Wednesday, December 4
I never undrestood the basis for Gore's statement that, "he created the internet." Until today I had only known what I had read and heard during the presidential campaign. As we know, most of the press jeered at his statement. From the Daily Howler I have learned that Gore did take a substantial leadership role in creating the internet.
.... for example, Martin Walker wrote this in The Guardian:The Daily Howler's discussion is very thorough and informative.
The Daily Kos has good insights into Saturday's run-off election. I expect that he is right that Landrieu will be defeated.
The GOP is calling the runoff "Operation icing on the cake". In short, Bush and the rest of the GOP machinery is making an all-out effort to eliminate one of Bush's most loyal Democratic allies.
Four environmental groups sued the Bush administration Tuesday to block changes that would allow more people to ride snowmobiles in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
According to the New York Times, "During the Thanksgiving weekend, security screeners seized 15,982 pocketknives, 98 box cutters, six guns and a brick." Have these people been living under a rock? Don't they know about September 11th?
From Tuesday to Sunday, six people who tried to carry guns onto planes were arrested: two at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport and one each at La Guardia Airport in New York, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport, Salt Lake City International Airport and Dulles International Airport outside Washington.
Anti Spamming Legislation
This sure should slow spammers down.
A bill introduced Monday in the state Senate would allow California residents to sue senders of unsolicited e-mail advertising for $500 per message received.
Tuesday, December 3
Shouldn't this have been a priority? "For the second year running, the federal government has flunked Computer Security 101."
Two, four, six, eight, pay us more to gyrate.
On an only in San Francisco note, strippers are demanding higher wages and better benefits at the only unionized strip club -- the Lusty Lady -- in San Francisco. The performers' picketing in front of the theater has been attracting the attention of passers by.
Osama's Letter to America
I meant to post this before Thanksgiving. I realize that this has made the blog rounds in the meantime, but in case you haven't seen this, I think that it is worth the read. This letter, allegedly from Osama Bin Laden, was first printed in the London Observer on November 14th.
The translated letter was originally posted in Arabic on a Saudi Arabian website previously used by al-Qaeda to disseminate messages. Within the last two weeks British Islamists have translated the letter, the most comprehensive explanation of bin Laden's ideology to be issued for several years, and posted it on English-language websites run from the UK.Whether one agrees or disagrees with the letter is beside the point. It doesn't matter whether it was written by Bin Laden or someone else. It doesn't matter whether we think that everything in the letter is wrong. We can't abandon Israel, for instance, and we all aren't voluntarily converting to Islam. The significance of the letter is that it reminds us that a purely military response to terrorism is misguided. You can't bomb the enemy out of existence if the situations that foster the enemy continue to exist. You can't bomb the enemy out of existence if the very fact of your bombing is going to motivate future terrorists. You can't bomb an enemy out of existence if the enemy is dispersed around the globe.
To fight terrorism we must address the root causes of it. We can't hope to win against terrorism if people continue to be sympathetic to their causes and if people continue to look at the U.S. as a superpower run amok. Without a chance at dialogue, an end to the war on terrorism seems quite quite distant. The more distant it is, the more finite our civil rights will become. If the U.S. can't fight this war on a diplomatic front too, then we will all suffer with our loss of liberties -- the Information Awareness Project may seem quaint some years from now. If another terrorist attack is perpetrated on U.S. soil, many of us may suffer with our lives as well.
Monday, December 2
Colin Powell's son, Michael, is the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC traditionally has limited the number of newspapers, radio stations and television outlets that a company can own in any given metropolitan area. These rules have been relaxed over the past 5 years. Now Chairman Powell is interested in eliminating the restrictions. In fact, unless there is an overwhelming public outcry, the F.C.C. will toss aside rules that 1) limit how many television stations a company can own nationwide; 2) that bar companies from owning a major television station and newspaper in the same town; and 3) that limit the number of radio and television stations that companies can own in one market. The FCC is accepting public comments on this proposal. Comments must be submitted no later than January 2, 2003.
Proponents of deregulation say that the average household has access to so much information in so many different forms that no single company could ever exert undue influence over consumers. In fact, they argue, large media conglomerates like AOL Time Warner and Comcast, through their investments in cable and Internet, are helping to bring more choices than ever to the average American household. ....The position of Powell and other Bush appointees on the FCC is that Americans have access to the internet. Internet surfers can read news from a vast array of publications. Therefore, no single company can exert undue influence over consumers. However, this reasoning ignores the fact that most Americans get their news from television. An FCC study indicates that "the average television viewer watches more than 2.5 hours of news a week." Other studies have shown that that people are much less reliant on the Internet for news. Moreover, as Murdoch and other global news organizations increase their reach the number of independent publications that have internet sites will also continue to decrease. Also, the diversity of cable channel options will decrease as the large media companies increasingly have the capital and influence to control what channels are carried by a cable or satellite operator. The little guys with less capital will be squeezed out of the satellite and cable channel menus.
while those large media conglomerates' new local news outlets may be good for day-to-day coverage, they may prove less useful in investigating any nefarious behavior by their parent companies and their political patrons.If you can, please comment on the proposed new rules, submit your comments using the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System. Be sure to include your full name, Postal Service mailing address. You will also need to include the matter's docket numbers. The docket numbers for this proposed rule are: MB Docket No. 02- 277 MM Docket Nos. 01- 235, 01- 317, 00- 244
They don't make this process easy. You might think that they didn't want many public comments.
Sunday, December 1
The glaciers in Montana's Glacier National Park are melting. The melting has been accelerated by global warming. Atmospheric warming has decreased the amount of annual snowfall which has led to higher internal temperatures in the glaciers. Some experts predict that Glacier National Park will not have any glaciers in 30 years.
When naturalists first hiked through Glacier National Park more than a century ago, 150 glaciers graced its high cliffs and jagged peaks. Today there are 35.
The environment as we know it is changing. Unfortunately, while most Americans have been concerned with the weapons inspectors going to Iraq and the inquiry as to whether Usama Bin Laden's voice is the one on the Al Qaeda tape recording, the Bush administration has been busy. While we were looking away, Bush has slowly begun to dismantle environmental protections. Over the last two weeks the administration has taken action relating to logging and clean air that will negatively affect us for years to come.
The day before Thanksgiving, the Bush administration announced plans to scrap elements of the environmental review of logging plans. Logging plans have been subject to a review that looks at the entire ecosystem of a forest. This approach gives weight to loggings' impact on old and new growth, erosion, other plants and animals. This basic premise of this approach is that there is an interrelationship and interdependence between all plants and animals in a forest. If you take away one element you have an impact on everything that is left. Thus if trees are cut, that logging will have an impact that will be felt by all inhabitants of the forest. This macro approach has been assailed by logging interests as taking to long and being too expensive.
Bush agrees. The new rules take a micro approach to forest management. Instead of looking at the ecosystem-wide impacts, the Department of Forestry will now only look at the specific area where the logging is to take place. Under the Bush rules there is a lot less to review and a lot less to analyze. Those loggers will be out there cutting down more of our forests before we know it. And of course, just so we don't have to look at those clearcuts, be assured that tourist buffers will still be maintained. Tourist buffers are strips of trees along side freeways and park roads that are not logged. These trees are preserved in order to give the average passerby the "feeling" that there is a whole forest there. It is kind of Hollywood approach to forestry. But in this case the backlot is a clear cut swath that used to be forest. Bush clearly can't "see the forest for the trees".
A week earlier Bush changed another set of environmental rules. He agreed to allow coal burning power plants to emit more pollutants. He accomplished this through modifications of the "New source review". New source review is the Clean Air Act program that requires older facilities to install modern pollution controls when they make major modifications that substantially increase pollution. The intent had been that older plants that expanded their capacity would be upgraded overtime and would meet more stringent standards. Instead, under a loophole many plants have "done maintenance" and avoided having to meet clean air requirements. Bush as made this loophole the rule rather than the exception. Factories such as power plants, refineries and chemical facilities can avoid modern emission control requirements by placing a cap on overall facility emissions based on their most polluting 24-month period in the last decade. in practice, this means that excessive emissions at old dirty plants are grandfathered in.
Relaxing air pollution control rules applicable to 18,000 industrial pollution sources defies basic principles of common sense and good government,” said John L. Kirkwood, President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Lung Association.
On the day the that he was sworn into office, Bush placed a moratorium on a Clinton rule that was phasing out snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park. Last week a rule was issued allowing snowmobiles in the park under most conditions. The administration determined that air pollution in Yellowstone National Park was secondary to snowmobile manufacturers.
The park, which straddles Montana and Wyoming, is home to Old Faithful geyser, wolves, elk, and antelope. Sitting atop a volcanic field, steam rises from vent holes adding to the beauty of the park.Snowmobiles, despite the noise and the smog, will continue to roam the park. It is clear the the public's health is not a concern to Bush. Finally, last week Bush acted to curb fossil fuel emissions and cut down our dependence on foreign oil. He increased mandated fuel economy for SUVs by a half gallon. Sadly, Bush won't really believe that there is global warming until a few of his campaign contributors find an economic benefit in it and tell him about it.
I fear that these changes are only the first of many. We can't allow Bush and headline media to distract us from what is really happening. The world that Bush is creating is not the one that I envision for my children and grandchildren.