Byrd's Brain

Tuesday, October 28
The fires this time
Today I am travelling by train for work. Yesterday, I flew into Burbank in order to attend a few meetings. We live in California so we know about fires and we have read about the current Southern California firestorm, but you can’t really appreciate the intensity and the devastation until you see it. On the flight into Burbank we flew past a few of the fires. Flames were reaching high into the sky. The fire were intense and at times seemed so close that one could easily imagine the heat from the flames. The sky above the Los Angeles basin is normally a thick brown pall. Now with the fires, a new shade of gray has been added to the polluted shroud ,along with the added element of falling ash.

After a day of meetings I was ready to fly home, but with the smoke filled skies I realized that planes might be grounded. (Burbank airport had been closed for two hours on Sunday.) At the airport although I learned that my flight was delayed for an hour and half, I was one of the lucky ones. Half of the flights out of L.A. were cancelled yesterday due to the fires. It didn’t help either that the primary air traffic tower for Southern California was threatened by a fire and evacuated. At this point 900 homes have been lost in these fires and more than a dozen people have perished. These fires have devastated thousands of lives.

If you don’t live in California you may not realize that there is a “fire season” here. Fires are typical in the dry forested and brush areas of Southern California. This year though they are unusually severe. I am often involved in planning issues professionally, so I can’t help but think that man has caused much of this devastation. Zoning agencies, city councils and county governments permitted residential construction in areas prone to fires. That was such a bad idea. Where was the common sense? Where was the service to the public good? People will buy homes if they are built. There is a certain sense of trust – and suspended disbelief -- that those in the know, or those who should have known, did their jobs and that the homes are safe. I have to believe that no one would buy a house if they knew with some certainty that it would burn down. To top it off, if these SoCal residences are like those that burned in the Oakland Hills fire, then they were on hillsides, off of winding roads and nestled among trees. It is difficult to get fire trucks into areas like that and it is difficult to fight fires and protect homes when dry brush and trees are immediately adjacent. They make great fuel.

Private insures have woken up to the risk involved in insuring homes in fire prone areas. Insurers are risk adverse so their response is to not write these risks or at least to not write many of them. Insurers like to collect premiums, they don’t like to pay claims. If you insure a house in a fire zone and the premium isn’t astronomical then you will pay a fire claim and you will lose money on the risk. Not something insurers like to do. At some point private insurers will say enough is enough and they will write fewer or no brush fire risks. If every insurer writes fewer of these risks then some people will go without insurance. Real estate sales would plummet. But in time, after much pain and economic loss, market forces would correct these planning mistakes, property values would decline and people would move to safer and more stable communities. Without insurance, people would not be able to get home loans. No lender will extend credit if it is almost a certainty that they will lose the collateral, the property.

However, all states have a Fair Access to Insurance Requirements Association (FAIR Plan). These FAIR Plans are comprised of all property insurers in a state. They are designed to provide insurance for those properties that are the least insurable. All property insurers – in a given state -- are members of that state’s Plan. In this way the market is able to spread the risk on these properties across the entire market and (theoretically) viably underwrite these risks. In most states the FAIR Plan insures properties in the inner city. The idea is that it is good public policy to have and maintain viable properties in the inner cities. These FAIR Plans help to promote inner city property ownership. In California the FAIR Plan was established after the 1960’s riots in Watts. Like those in other states, it was created to provide insurance coverage for those difficult to insure inner city properties. However, in California there was a twist. The California FAIR Plan also insures homes in brush fire areas. That means that if a home is on a hillside, off of a dirt road and in a forest it is unlikely that a private insure will extend coverage, but the FAIR Plan must. That’s right, it must insure these otherwise uninsurable properties.

To me this means that it is the stated policy of California that no matter where you live, no matter how foolish the local government may have been and no matter how greedy the developers may have been, or how blind you may have been to the hazards, you can get insurance. The result is that homes are built in the desert (much of Southern California was desert, its water comes from the north and the Colorado river) and amidst dry brush. Your house may burn down, but the views are fantastic. Who wouldn’t want to live there? On a rational level one might understand the risk, but the views and the trees are magnificent, so on an emotional level the risk is minimal. Besides we can get insurance and if the risk really were so great how could “they” have built here anyway?

Insuring difficult to insure properties is a very noble goal, but the result of that mission may have led to untold devastation, personal tragedies, the consumption of millions of dollars in fire rescue resources and manpower and uncontrolled sprawl. Do people really have to live or somehow develop every square inch of this planet?

Have we wrought what we have sown?

Friday, October 24
A joke, that Karl Rove would understand
I don't usually forward or print most of the e-mail jokes that circulate, but this joke is good. I first read it on Blah3 and have copied it verbatim.

While walking down the street one day, George "Dubya" Bush is shot and killed by a disgruntled NRA member. His soul arrives in heaven and he is met by St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. "Welcome to Heaven," says St. Peter. "Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem: We seldom know what to do with a Republicans in these parts, and the same goes for you. "No problem, just let me in; I'm a believer." says Dubya

"I'd like to just let you in, but I have orders from the Man Himself: He says you have to spend one day in Hell and one day in Heaven. Then you must choose where you'll live for eternity."

"But, I've already made up my mind; I want to be in Heaven."

"I'm sorry, but we have our rules." And with that Peter escorts him to an elevator and he goes down, down, down, all the way to Hell The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a lush golf course the sun is shining in a cloudless sky, the temperature perfect 72 degrees.

In the distance is a beautiful clubhouse. Standing in front of it his dad...and thousands of other Republicans who had helped him out over the years... Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Jerry Falwell.... The whole of the "Right" was there...everyone laughing...happy...casually but expensively dressed.

They run to greet him, hug him, and reminisce about the good times they had getting rich at expense of the "suckers and peasants". They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster and caviar.

The Devil himself comes up to Bush with a frosty drink, "Have a Margarita and relax, Dubya!"

"Uh, I can't drink no more, I took a pledge," says Junior, dejectedly.

"This is Hell, son: you can drink and eat all you want and not worry, and it just gets better from there!"

Dubya takes the drink and finds himself liking the Devil, who he thinks is a really very friendly guy who tells funny jokes and pulls hilarious nasty pranks, kind of like a Yale Skull and Bones brother with real horns.

They are having such a great time that, before he realizes it, it's time to go. Everyone gives him a big hug and waves as Bush steps on the elevator and heads upward.

When the elevator door reopens, he is in Heaven again and St. Peter is waiting for him. "Now it's time to visit Heaven," the old man says, opening the gate.

So for 24 hours Bush is made to hang out with a bunch of honest, good-natured people who enjoy each other's company, talk about things other than money, and treat each other decently. Not a nasty prank or frat boy joke among them; no fancy country clubs and, while the food tastes great, it's not caviar or lobster. And these people are all poor, he doesn't see anybody he knows, and he isn't even treated like someone special!

Worst of all, to Dubya, Jesus turns out to be some kind of Jewish hippie with his endless 'peace' and 'do unto others' jive.

"Whoa," he says uncomfortably to himself, "Pat Robertson never prepared me for this!"

The day done, St. Peter returns and says, "Well, then, you've spent a day in Hell and a day in Heaven. Now choose where you want to live for eternity."

With the 'Jeopardy' theme playing softly in the background,Dubya reflects for a minute, then answers: "Well, I would never have thought I'd say this -- I mean, Heaven has been delightful and all but I really think I belong in Hell with my friends.

So Saint Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down,down, all the way to Hell.

The doors of the elevator open and he is in the middle of a barren scorched earth covered with garbage and toxic industrial waste...kind of like Houston. He is horrified to see all of his friends, dressed in rags and chained together, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags. They are groaning and moaning in pain,faces and hands black with grime. The Devil come over to Dubya and puts an arm around his shoulder.

"I don't understand," stammers a shocked Dubya, "Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and a clubhouse and drank and ate caviar... I drank booze. We screwed around and had a great time.

Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and everybody looks miserable.

The Devil looks at him, smiles slyly, and purrs, "Yesterday we were campaigning; today you voted for us."

Thursday, October 23
Energy Bill
Check Mark Fiore on the pending energy bill.

Wal-Mart Keep Out
One victory for the little guy. Oakland has moved to prohibit the construction of the massive (almost 200,000 square feet) Wal-Mart superstores. The Oakland ordinance bans stores over 100,000 square feet that devote more than 10 percent of their area to groceries. It does not include wholesale clubs such as Costco.

Wednesday, October 22
Enemies List
What do the St. Louis Cardinals, the New York Times, Art Buchwald, Oprah Winfrey, Britney Spears, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Retired Persons and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference have in common? They are all on the enemies list of the National Rifle Association. How pathetic. If anything the list is way too short. For instance, Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't on the list. During his campaign for governor he said that he favored some gun control. People should be proud to be on the list. We should use this contact link to the NRA to state our support for gun control and ask to be placed on their list.

I learned of this list from Mark Murford:
Maybe you are not on the NRA's list just yet. Maybe you want to join the blacklist and add your name to the thousands who look at the NRA and feel, well, not really anger, not liberal outrage, not even mistrust or disgust.

But more like this overwhelming sense of sadness, and embarrassment, and twisted empathy, this acidic knot in the gut at all the ignorance and misinfo the NRA seems to wallow in and engender in its members, what with the 11,000-plus gun-related deaths in America every year, even as the NRA actively works to reverse the assault-weapons ban in Congress and absolve gun makers and dealers from any liability and protect your right to buy the same high-powered Bushmaster rifle used by that murderous D.C. sniper.

Because remember, to extend the NRA's favorite saying, guns don't kill people, gun-happy sociopaths weaned on ultraviolent media coupled with the NRA's very brand of fearmongering and paranoia and intolerance and anticultural loathing kill people.

Tuesday, October 21
Democratic Snobbery
David Brooks opines, with Edwards as his muse, in today's New York Times that part of the failure of the Democratic party lies in its appeal to snobbery. Democrats talk of being the party of the people, but the candidates seem to look down at every day people. Al Gore certainly didn't talk to everyman. Gray Davis didn't talk to everyman. In fact, he was completely out of touch. Hence he could be thrown out of office for no real reasons at all.
But the really eye-popping change is in party identification. In Franklin Roosevelt's administration, 49 percent of voters said they were Democrats. But that number has been dropping ever since, and now roughly 32 percent of voters say they are. As Mark Penn, a former Clinton pollster, has observed, "In terms of the percentage of voters who identify themselves as Democrats, the Democratic Party is currently in its weakest position since the dawn of the New Deal." The Democratic presidential candidates wending their way through Iowa, New Hampshire and the other primary states are offering theories about the party's decline, and what can be done about it.

Howard Dean argues that the Democratic Party has lost its soul. If it returns to its true fighting self, instead of compromising with Republicans, it will energize new and otherwise disenchanted voters.

Dick Gephardt argues that the party has lost touch with the economic interests of working men and women. Instead of offering bread-and-butter benefits to lower-middle-class workers, it endorses free trade policies that destroy job security.

Joe Lieberman argues that the party has become too liberal and too secular. It has lost touch with the values of the great American middle.

John Edwards has the most persuasive theory. He argues that most voters do not place candidates on a neat left-right continuum. But they are really good at sensing who shares their values. They are really good at knowing who respects them and who doesn't. Edwards's theory is that the Democrats' besetting sin over the past few decades has been snobbery.

His campaign is based on the argument that the Democrats need to nominate a person from Middle America, not from the coastal educated class. "My campaign is a different Democratic campaign," Edwards said in his announcement speech. "Not only will I run for the real America, I will run in the real America. . . . Democrats too often act like rural America is just someplace to fly over between a fund-raiser in Manhattan and a fund-raiser in Beverly Hills."

Edwards draws an implicit contrast between himself and Howard Dean and John Kerry by pointing out that he worked for everything he has. He loaded trucks to pay for college. "It didn't hurt me at all," he says.

He draws an explicit contrast with George Bush, arguing that the Bush administration rewards wealth and punishes work. This is not about economics, he says; it's about values. The Bush administration disrespects working Americans. It lowers taxes for people who sit around the pool and collect capital gains, while shifting the burden to people who wake up early, work hard and hope to get rich.

Obviously Edwards's campaign has not caught fire. (Although it is far too early to count him out. One thing I learned last week in Iowa is that voters are far more interested in Gephardt, Kerry and Edwards than we in the national media.) But that doesn't mean Edwards's theory is wrong, or that Democratic primary voters accurately understand their plight. When I interviewed people during the 2000 campaign I found many voters preferred Democratic policies to Republican ones. But they didn't trust Al Gore because they thought he looked down on them. They felt Bush could come to their barbershop and fit right in.

Except for Bill Clinton, Democrats have nominated presidential candidates who try to figure out Middle American values by reading the polls, instead of feeling them in their gut. If they do it again, the long, slow slide will continue. NYTimes

Monday, October 20
A Wonderful Sunday Afternoon
The Byrd's have all been sick for more than a week now. Our 3 year-old daughter got well just before the weekend started, but her one year-old brother still has a morning cough and mom and dad are slowly coming around. (Truth be told, I am getting better because my cold turned into yet another sinus infection and now thanks to the miracle of antibiotics I am able to breathe again and talk without erupting into coughing fits.)

The fall weather here has been delightful. Yesterday it was sunny, in the low '80's, with a very gentle breeze. We had no plans for the day, since we had all been ill. After the boy's morning nap we decided to head to the barber shop for haircuts. One for him and one for me. (Mrs. Byrd has wanted someone to cut the boy's hair for a few weeks. The last straw came on Saturday night. We had been at a pumpkin carving party -- yes, a party for toddlers with lots of knives and messy pumpkin guts. Miraculously no one was hurt. Anyway, I digress, a woman at the party referred to our son as "she"! This was too much for Mrs. Byrd. Any haircutting delay had passed.)

In the past our daughter had gone to the barbershop with me, for my haircuts, but those trips had been a little boring for her. Yesterday was an exception. Mom and her brother were at the barbershop too. Now it was an adventure. While we waited our turns "M" (our daughter) played with toys that were in a basket and "talked" with a one year-old baby girl. "Z" (our son) walked around the store looking to see what trouble he could get into. He was good though, he listened to us and never tried to walk out of the open barbershop door. Instead he wandered around inside. At one point the one year-old girl walked up to him, but she didn't look at him. Instead she looked at the ground. Z walked around her and then stooped down in front of her in order to see her face and get her to look at him. We wish that we hadn't forgotten our camera. We wanted a picture of him trying to connect with her. And we wish we had our camera for the hair cut itself, but we forgot. There is a lot to do to get a toddler and a baby ready to leave the house. A camera just isn't on the routine checklist.

Z was a trooper while the barber cut his hair. He even liked the sound of the electric razor and he didn't flinch with the scissors trimming the hair around his ears. Z's hair was cut in no time. The amount of hair that came off his head was amazing though. I had no idea his hair was so thick. Mrs Byrd had been right, he did need a hair cut and now he does look like a boy! Z came off the chair and then M got in it. She wanted a haircut too. Now though mom was nervous. Afterall, she cuts M's hair and she likes the way it looks. What would the barber do? He cut a little hair off at her bangs, not much, but enough for her to have had a haircut too. And M got a lollipop from the barber. That made it even more special. I got my hair cut -- no lollipop for me -- and then we walked to the pizza place.

Now, as you know, Mrs Byrd and I had been on the South Beach diet and pizza isn't your typical diet food, but we love pizza. Our pizza had a whole wheat dough, so that made okay, right? We ate our pizza and M even used the potty. These little milestones in a child's life are awe inspiring. It wasn't too long ago that M was in diapers and then when she would only use the portable potty that we keep in the car. Now she wants to use the grown up potties when we are out, because she is a "big girl". These things made you proud as a parent and they make your heart melt too. Our girl is growing up so fast. We ate our leisurely lunch and then took a stroll. We looked in strorefronts and sat on benches, we ran along the sidewalks and we wandered through stores.

We didn't do much, but it was a wonderful afternoon. It was nice to hang out with the family with no goals or deadlines or any particular purpose in mind.

Friday, October 17
Benign RFIDs?
Marks and Spencer is testing the use of RFIDs in the tags attached to men's clothing. If there is a benign use of RFID this might be it. These chips are not embedded. Instead, they are in the sales tags and Marks and Spencer declares that the only information provided is the inventory control number and that no sale information (purchaser name address etc.) will ever be linked to the chips. RFIDs pose a vast threat to privacy because when they are embedded in a product they won't be removed and when activated could be used to track someone's travel and purchasing habits. Imagine wearing a sweater with an embedded chip and that chip registered in a sensor everytime that you went into or out of a building? I have written about these chips in the past here and here.

Thursday, October 16
As this article at Mother Jones explains, the unrest in Bolivia has U.S. roots. The immediate cause is a proposed natural gas pipeline for U.S. energy companies, but the U.S. war on drugs has helped to impoverish the nation and U.S. backed free-market reforms have not bolstered the economy.

Tuesday, October 14
Endangered Species, more endangered now
BushCo's response to the threatened extinction of endangered species? Kill them to save them.

Hit the "Shift" key
The copy protected CD isn't so copy protected afterall.

Cough, cough
It was not a delightful weekend at the Byrd's. Everyone was sick all weekend. Our 3 year-old and I are better, not great, but definitely better. However, Mrs. Byrd and the 1 year-old are worse. The little boy has a cough and a sore throat. Whenever he coughs he cries.

Friday, October 10
Cough, cough
If you can imagine the sounds of a one year old coughing and crying; a three year old coughing -- with fever -- and begging to go out and play; and mom and dad coughing and under the weather than you know the sounds in the Byrd house. In light of our collective ailments, further blogging will not be happening today.

Thursday, October 9
Dean on the Recall
"Today's recall election in California was not about Gray Davis or Arnold Schwarzenegger. This recall was about the frustration so many people are feeling about the way things are going. All across America, George Bush's massive tax cuts for the wealthy are undermining state budgets, causing cutbacks in services and increases in local property taxes. Were recalls held in every state, it's quite possible that 50 governors would find themselves paying the price for one president's ruinous national economic policies. Tonight the voters in California directed their frustration with the country's direction on their incumbent governor. Come next November, that anger might be directed at a different the White House."
The glass is half full.

EPA sides with Pesticides
A little change here and a little change there and pretty soon you don't have any of that pesky regulatory stuff to worry about.
"The Bush administration is siding with the pesticide industry to make it harder for farmers to sue manufacturers over product labels.

In a change of interpretation, Environmental Protection Agency officials said Monday they believe federal law bars lawsuits against pesticide manufacturers under state laws when a product fails to do what its federally approved label promises.


[This approach was] echoed in court papers filed in a Supreme Court case this year by Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who argued federal law bars Texas peanut farmers from suing pesticide makers for crop damage after using a mix the manufacturer recommended.

"This is a total change in the government position, a 180-degree change," said Tom Buis, a vice president for the National Farmers Union, which represents about 300,000 farm families.

Buis said "it could be troubling because ... the farmers' liability isn't just what they spend on that pesticide, but their entire crop."

Douglas Nelson, a spokesman for CropLife America, said his pesticide trade group, which pushed for the position change, believes that "at best the EPA is doing a clarification, not a new policy" to prevent someone from second-guessing what should be on a label.

Erik Olson, a senior attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, said the policy change reflects "the pesticide industry getting its way with EPA."

On reflection
The glass is half full. On social issues Arnold is moderate to progressive. He supports some form of gun control, he is opposed to offshore oil drilling and he is pro-choice. He certainly isn't all bad and maybe BushCo will send more federal funding to California. We could sure use it. Also, BushCo will be hard pressed to enforce policies in California that Arnold is opposed too. However, the Governor-Elect's fiscal policies do worry me. I don't know how the car fee can be lowered without state services to the poor and elderly being cut. Terminating the car fee hike will create a new $4 billion hole in the state's budget. Covering up that hole is going to hurt someone. Most likely more state workers will be laid off. The state is already in a second round of layoffs. Agencies have already prioritized the services that they provide -- mandatory services will continue, but discretionary services may not. Yet another round of layoffs will mean even fewer services to the people of California. In the long run this will hurt California.

Tuesday, October 7
Arnold is the next Governor of California
Democracy...doesn't mind what the habits and background of its politicians are; provided they profess themselves the people's friends, they are duly honored.


Recall Vote
The good news (I think) is that there was a line at the poll. The votes:

Recall Davis: No.

Candidate: Bustamante

Propositions: No and No.

Monday, October 6
Answers Please Mr Bush
Michael Moore has a certain style that you either love or hate. His take no prisonsers approach to BushCo is refreshing. You can read excerpts from his new book here, here and here. Here is a sample:
By never voting for a Republican again, you will make a tonne of money!
Look, I realise that at one time being a Republican and voting for Republicans seemed like the sure way to becoming wealthy. But that is not the way it works these days. Thirty years ago, if you made the equivalent of $50,000, you were rich. You lived in a big beautiful home. And there were hundreds, if not thousands, like you in every town in America. Roosevelt's New Deal had created a massive middle class and the gaps between rich and poor had actually decreased by 7.4% from 1947 to 1968.

All it took to be a rich kid back then was to have your dad be a family physician, a dentist, a lawyer, an accountant, a realtor, the owner of a grocery store or a mid-level management guy at the auto company. But all that began to crumble starting in the 1970s when the income disparity really began to widen.

While those living it up in the top 1% have enjoyed income increases of 157% in the past 20 years, the middle class has only gotten a 10% increase. Only 10% for the mass of people who have powered the explosion in wealth we have seen in the past 20 years! The doctor is barely making ends meet, the lawyer is trying to scrounge up enough divorce cases to pay the bills, and the mid-management guy - well, now he tosses a mean tortilla down at Del Taco.

These very Republicans you say you are one of want nothing to do with you. They have either downsized you, fired you, or they've got you doing the jobs of two or three people. They have taken your money in the stock market and made it vanish. They have pushed through tax bills that truly benefit only that top 1%. They are spending your retirement money right now on boondoggle after boondoggle to make their buddies rich.

Now, this is not to say the Democrats are the answer. But, ask yourself, honestly, weren't you doing better as a conservative under Clinton? Sure, you hated his good looks and charm and how he almost got away with that blow job, but get over it! You are being taken for a ride. And you know it.

Drop all this "Republican" nonsense, declare yourself an independent, and then go shopping for a party or for people running for office who are going to try to help you make more money. Any representative who delivers on making our schools and libraries a top priority, who sees to it that everyone has healthcare, who demands that we not live in a society of illiterates, who backs any bill that increases people's wages, and who taxes the wealthy for duping an entire country into bankruptcy - well, that is who you should be working for and voting for, because, in the end, it will all benefit you. source How to talk to your conservative brother-in-law

Unsavory meat
This is the tip of the iceberg. Meat recalls are voluntary and little or no oversight means that the recalls are made too late in the process to be effective and they serve more to blunt possible lawsuits (to show mitigation) than to actually protect the public. The USDA only undertook an investigation of the Con-Agra plant because Rep Waxman "asked" it to. Besides, the authority of the USDA was gutted years ago. That gutting process began under Reagan and continued under Bush 1. Clinton tried to correct this by requiring microbial testing, but BushCo tossed out the regulation before it took effect. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which oversees U.S. meat and poultry plants, doesn't really inspect plants. Instead it reviews, "plant-generated testing data". That's right, the inspection is a review of data generated by the plant operators themselves. Do you really expect these companies to report manyhealth or safety violations? Enjoy your lunch, I hope that it was well cooked.

Just the next generation of the bar code...
Those little radio frequency identification (RFID) chips keep popping up. They were "tested" in razor blade packages and activated surveillance cameras, then Wal-Mart set a goal to have all of its inventory monitored with these RFIDs and now libraries want to embed these chips in to books. Although in the library's case allegedly the chips will be deactivated when one leaves the building, so that your reading habits won't be electronically tracked wherever you go. Could they "forget" to deactivate the chips....

Friday, October 3
Pumping Something
If the polls are correct, it looks like California is about to take a quick swing to the right and into a little chaos. Come Tuesday it is likely that Arnold will be the next Governor of California. He has a 10 point lead over Bustamante. One wonders if the groping and fondling charges will have any effect. They are probably too little too late. Arnold says that he doesn't remember each of these acts, perhaps it is because he has done these things so many times that he can't possibly remember each instance.

Thursday, October 2
What bothers me about the recall
What bothers me about the recall of Gray Davis is what this says about the United States in 2003. Mac Diva expressed this same concern very well in a September 30th post.
What I find troubling is the whole scenario. A C-movie actor with the intelligence of a pet rock announces he is running for the top leadership position in an important state and far too many of the citizenry cluelessly declare their allegiance. The national GOP targets a governor for a spurious recall campaign and far too few of the citizenry see what is wrong with that. We have a habit of blaming leaders for failures in our society. But, I'm inclined to blame the citizens of the not so golden state for this one.

Wednesday, October 1
Global Warming Kills
Scientists estimate that global warming kills about 160,000 people each year.
About 160,000 people die every year from side-effects of global warming ranging from malaria to malnutrition and the numbers could almost double by 2020, a group of scientists said.

The study, by scientists at the World Health Organization (WHO) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said children in developing nations seemed most vulnerable.

"We estimate that climate change may already be causing in the region of 160,000 deaths...a year," Professor Andrew Haines of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told a climate change conference in Moscow on Tuesday.

"The disease burden caused by climate change could almost double by 2020," he added, even taking account of factors like improvements in health care. He said the estimates had not been previously published.

Most deaths would be in developing nations in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, which would be hardest hit by the spread of malnutrition, diarrhea and malaria in the wake of warmer temperatures, floods and droughts.

"These diseases mainly affect younger age groups, so that the total burden of disease due to climate change appears to be borne mainly by children in developing countries," Haines said.

Nuclear Waste
If you have a disposal problem just redefine the waste and make the problem go away.
The Energy Department has asked Congress to allow it to redefine some nuclear waste so it can be left in place or sent to sites intended for low-level radioactive material, rather than being buried deep underground.

Department officials say they thought they had flexibility in classifying what constituted high-level nuclear waste, but in July, a federal district judge in Idaho ruled that the department's plan for treating waste there violated the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, a 1982 law requiring the deep burial of high-level waste.

The argument concerns tens of millions of gallons of salts and sludges left over from weapons production that are now in tanks in Idaho, South Carolina and eastern Washington. High-level waste is supposed to be encapsulated in glass for burial. The department has chosen Yucca Mountain, Nev., as the repository site, but the site has not yet opened and when it does, it will not be big enough for all the solidified wastes and spent reactor fuel.

In the Idaho case, the Energy Department had said that some of the high-level waste was "incidental" and need not be removed from the tanks. The Natural Resources Defense Council and the Snake River Alliance, a local environmental group, along with two Indian tribes, successfully argued that the order violated a longtime policy that high-level waste must be deeply buried.

17.2 pounds. That is my total weight loss to date. My goal had been 10 pounds. Everything else is a bonus! We've been on this diet for almost two months. Someone came to this blog after a "South Beach Diet Sucks" search. I'm sorry if they have had a bad experience with the diet. The meal plan is a lot of work, but it pays off physically and mentally. The Byrds love this diet so much that we are moving to Florida. Not. We're staying put and staying on the diet for now.

Attention to Detail
As long time readers of this blog know the Byrds are an Apple family. We love all things Mac. The attention to detail in Apple products is amazing and not approached by any competitor. The attention to detail even in the packaging is stunning. We have saved the boxes for our Apple products because it almost seems a crime to recycle them. They are so pretty they should be reused. Mark Murford just bought a new Powerbook. His ode to Apple is spot on.

Recall decisions
I will vote no on the recall, but I have been torn about how to vote on a specific candidate. Which candidate to pick to replace Davis has left me confused. I like what Camejo and Huffington have said. I agree with their visions for California. However, I don't want Arnold elected. It is the age old question. Vote your conscience or vote to win. Should I vote -- Huffington, Camejo, Bustamante or even Greuner? But now with Arianna out my vote is becoming easier. Maybe Camejo will drop out too...and if all of the supporters of Camejo and Huffington vote for Bustamante, he has a chance to be elected. Right? I must admit that this might be a pipe dream. Arnold has all of the momentum at this point...