Byrd's Brain

Friday, January 31
If you Used it Once You Can Use it Again and Again and....
After all writing is such a bother. Is it plagiarism if you give the same speech that your boss gave? Is it is just efficient? Is it a sign of being lazy? No, I think that it is a sign that they don't care what we think. They will just keep repeating the same message until we give in. If you say it often enough, it must be right, right?
Cheney's speech before the Republican National Committee in Washington was largely an echo of President Bush's State of the Union address Tuesday. In fact, several parts of Cheney's speech were virtually identical to the president's remarks. Cheney made similar comments Thursday. CNN

Finally, surf over to The Agora for more on the State of the Union speech. I think that I agree with all of Douglas Anders' comments.

Thursday, January 30
A Little Bit on the SOTU
I have intended to write about the State of the Union speech, but family illnesses and work have prevented me from doing so. Although as I surf the web this evening I see that many have said what I have felt and more. Check out the Mother Jones view, the Daily Kos and The Road to Surfdom. This last I learned of from P.L.A. To the commentary at the Surfdom link I would add that, despite what others have said, Bush has never blinked in his determination to get Saddam. The comments and actions of Powell, Rice and others are just window dressing.

Bush's speech was empty platitudes with a few bones tossed for the environment and AIDS. Like Bush cares. Oh right, he is a compassionate conservative.

Smoke and mirrors.

New E-Mail Address
My experiment with using a small e-mail service -- Konzoo -- has failed. The servers were down too often to make the service useful. For those of you who sent e-mail and received no reply from me, I apologize. I tried to respond to everyone, but some mail never made it out. If you had bookmarked my e-mail address please note the new address. I now have a yahoo account.

Wednesday, January 29
Give me a break.

The Direct Marketing Association and four telemarketing firms have filed suit in Federal court in an effort to stop the FTC's creation of a national "do not call" list. The trade association and the firms (which could lose thousands (millions?) of dollars under the FTC system) assert that a "do not call" list would violate free-speech laws and discriminate against an industry that provides millions of jobs. Don't we have a right to not listen? Is an industry a protected class? Maybe under Bush it is.

Ain't that the Truth
That said, do you have any ideas for a really scary reality TV show?

“C students from Yale.” It would stand your hair on end.
Kurt Vonnegut in the interview with In These Times.

Atrios has this link to an interview with Kurt Vonnegut. I've said that life in this country seems surreal. How did these people get to be in charge and who do they think they are. Vonnegut has the answer. It is like an invasion of the body snatchers.
I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened, though, is that it has been taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d’etat imaginable. And those now in charge of the federal government are upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka “Christians,” and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or “PPs.”

To say somebody is a PP is to make a perfectly respectable medical diagnosis, like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete’s foot. The classic medical text on PPs is The Mask of Sanity by Dr. Hervey Cleckley. Read it! PPs are presentable, they know full well the suffering their actions may cause others, but they do not care. They cannot care because they are nuts. They have a screw loose!

And what syndrome better describes so many executives at Enron and WorldCom and on and on, who have enriched themselves while ruining their employees and investors and country, and who still feel as pure as the driven snow, no matter what anybody may say to or about them? And so many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in our federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick.

What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they cannot care what happens next. Simply can’t. Do this! Do that! Mobilize the reserves! Privatize the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody’s telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!
Check out the whole interview. It is vintage Vonnegut.

Tell Me I Am Wrong
Is it just me?

My impression has been that a disproportionate number of local "first responders" are also in the reserve. It follows from that that a disproportionate number of local fire, health and safety emergency personnel have been called up to fight the war with Iraq. If your impressions jibe with my impressions then the war with Iraq has caused a personnel shortage locally. That means that there are fewer people on the local level who are available to respond to a terror attack. It would follow then that this would be a perfect time to launch an attack within the U.S. The feds are focused on a war with Iraq and cities, counties and are facing personnel shortages in key health and safety areas.

Tuesday, January 28
Bracing for war
Okay so it looks like we are going to war. Although the International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei backed nuclear weapons inspectors' assertions that the inspections are starting to work and should continue, the Bush administration has focused on Blix's comments. Blix has come further around to support Bush. Increasingly his public comments serve Bush's ends.
Hans Blix, one of the chief United Nations weapons inspectors, gave a broadly negative report today on Iraq's cooperation with two months of inspections, providing support to the Bush administration's campaign to disarm Iraq by force if necessary.

"Iraq appears not to have come to genuine acceptance — not even today — of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world and live in peace," Mr. Blix said, summing up a grim 15-page catalog of Iraq's chemical and biological arms programs that provided an exhaustive account of ways in which Saddam Hussein has failed to prove that he has eliminated illegal weapons.
(NYTimes, login/password: rbyrd.)
Blix's comments have succeeded in getting Putin to change his tone too. However, Tony Blair is still the biggest supporter of the U.S. Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary has declared that Iraq is in "material breach."
The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, today said for the first time that Iraq was in "material breach" of UN demands for it to disarm, and conceded that war had become more likely since the beginning of the year.
Iraq would be left open to "serious consequences" under the terms of a UN resolution passed in November if the security council was to agree with Mr Straw's opinion.

He had previously put the odds on war at 60-40 against, but today said that Iraq's "unbelievable refusal" to comply with the resolution had lessened the chances of a peaceful end to the crisis. (Guardian Unlimited.)
The U.S. still has Britain's support despite strong internal British opposition and even though the rest of Europe, led by former enemies Germany and France, are moving further away from supporting a war with Iraq. Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows. Because of the economic power of the U.S. more and more middle eastern nations are coming to accept, if not endorse, an invasion of Iraq. These events lead one inevitably to expect an invasion of Iraq any day.

This is unfortunate. It is not that I think that a man who has gassed his own people is a nice guy or that I think that Saddam should stay in power. I have little doubt that he still has biological and chemical weapons hidden somewhere in Iraq. I don't like him and I would like to see him removed from power. What troubles me is that "end justify the means" thing. In this case it is an emphatic, "No".

If the U.S. has evidence that would clearly show that Saddam has breached U.N. resolutions then let's see it. If the evidence is clear then there would be U.N. support. Saying that there is evidence and then refusing to show it hurts U.S. credibility. You can't help but assume that there really is no evidence.

The U.S. should not unilaterally, even with just Britain's assistance, attack any nation. The U.S. is readying its forces for an imminent attack, but it needs to show restraint. "Running out of patience" isn't justification for starting a war. People will die. The U.S. needs a strong justification for getting people killed. Bush apparently is going to try to rally U.S. sentiment by saying that attacking Iraq is a "great cause." Bullshit. Platitudes aren't enough to justify war. The U.S. must show restraint precisely because it has become the superpower. In this role the U.S. is an easy target. The U.S. stands alone. If the U.S. invades Iraq without U.N. support then the U.S. makes itself more of a target. We may as well paint giant bullseyes on U.S. monuments and citizens abroad. The U.S. needs to act in all things under the guise of concerted international action.

Lest we forget as Bush would like us to, Osama and his followers are still out there. Where is the logic here? We are fighting a war on terrorism. So in order to create more enemies, more people who will see the U.S. as the Great Satan and be willing to die in order to kill many Americans -- let's invade Iraq. What a plan. Osama couldn't have planned a better recruiting scheme. The events that are unfolding are surreal. In order to close this logic gap we can expect to see more reports that Saddam is linked to Al Queada. You have to hope that this is a bad dream and we will all wake up from it soon. Alas, Bush and his cronies are all too real.

Bush's designs on Iraq and his failures in the war on terrorism are all too real. We rue the day that the Supreme Court interfered in a the presidential election and gave George Bush the job. Bush's inept bungling of foreign affairs may change the world as we know it. That change will have countless negative ramifications. Check out the realistic and depressing presentation of World War 2.5 to see what may result from a U.S. invasion of Iraq. (I first found the link to this flash presentation on the Sideshow.)

If we are invading Iraq for its oil let's just say so. Although, if we are invading for its oil what will the U.S. and Britain really get when Saddam torches all of the Iraqi oil wells? He did this in Kuwait. We should expect his scorched earth tactics again. We will have more than 150,000 troops and four aircraft carrier battle groups, each with more than 70 warplanes, in the Persian Gulf region by the end of February.

War is just around the corner. I still want to know why.

Monday, January 27
Tom Spencer has a link to this by "Conservative columnist Steve Chapman" (Tom's words) in the Chicago Tribune. Go read the whole column. Chapman slams Bush. He doesn't say anything that hasn't said in blogland over the past year, but it is refreshing to hear it from the "other side" and in the mainstream press. Here is a highlight:
The United States is finding out that being the world's only superpower--or "hyperpower," as we're known, pejoratively, in Europe--can be far less pleasant than we might have expected. Oscar Wilde once said of George Bernard Shaw that "he has no enemies, and none of his friends like him." That's the current plight of the U.S. We're powerful enough that no one wants to become our target, and powerful enough that no one wishes us too well.

President Bush has shown a knack for helping old rivals find common ground. The French and the Germans spent most of the last century killing each other, restraining each other, or eyeing each other warily, but in recent weeks they've stood shoulder to shoulder against Washington. The Russians and Chinese, who are normally about as brotherly as Cain and Abel, have joined forces to resist Bush's policies.

All of these countries, you may remember, were firmly on our side in the war on Al Qaeda. But thanks to his obsession with Iraq, Bush has managed to turn sympathy into resentment. Three of those four nations have vetoes on the UN Security Council, which they could use to prevent us from getting a resolution authorizing a march on Baghdad.
But nation-building may be the least of our burdens. A large force of U.S. soldiers and civilians stationed in the Middle East will furnish the equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet for Osama bin Laden. (Remember him?) Postwar Iraq promises to be a magnet for Al Qaeda operatives eager to resume the fight against America. If we can't prevent terrorist attacks in places like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, imagine what we can expect in Iraq.

Making the problem worse is that the Middle East has a lot of terrorist organizations that have been preoccupied with Israel in the past, but may decide to use this opportunity to bloody its chief ally. Factions of groups like Hamas and Hezbollah may begin targeting Americans with a vengeance--and not just in Iraq.

Some of those groups, in the chaos of postwar Iraq, may get their hands on Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons. Instead of advancing the fight against terror, going into Iraq may only plunge us into a wider conflict, while making us more vulnerable.

In that case, we'll have a far greater need for allies in the war on terror. Any idea where we could find some?
Thanks again to Tom Spencer.

Sunday, January 26
Privacy Alert: Google
Google is a great search engine. It is the one that I go to without fail. However, in its quest to amass all available data within its domain, Google sometimes crosses the line and intrudes on individuals' privacy. Google's phone directory does just that.

If you put a phone number (use dashes) into the search field, Google will provide you with the name of the person who has the number, their address and links to get maps to the address. Yes, this is based on public data, but Google has made it too easy to locate someone. There was a time when you went to your local library in order to find an out of town phone number or the related address. You had to look through the actual phonebooks to find a phone number. If you had the phone number, you needed to use a reverse phone directory in order to find the address that matched the number. This was a manual process that obviously took some time. Finally, once you got the address you needed to use a map to locate it and the library probably didn't have a detailed street map for your use.

Google has made this a one stop process. This is a little too quick and easy for my tastes. If you haven't already, try a search with your phone number. If the results make you uncomfortable choose the phone icon on the results page. You can then ask Google to remove the number from the database.

[1/27/03. An addendum: If you ask to have your phone number removed from Google's search this isn't an instantaneous process. I just checked for my phone number this morning. The search returns no results. This took 2 days from the time of my request to Google.]

Friday, January 24
"Man's future is in the oceans," Hawkes said. "I think we're going to find that flight is the key to opening that."
That is one man's view of the world from his personal submarine. Read about it here.

TIAP Progress
There is good news for once. There has been some progress in the efforts to stop DARPA's Total Information Awareness Project. (Which I have written about here, here and here. The Senate voted yesterday to restrict deployment of the TIAP. This project, as you are aware by now, is intended to use data mining techniques in order to cull information from commercial databases -- including personal health and financial information. It would also search e-mail messages. The purported anti terrorist intent is to look for patterns in an individual's behavior in order to stop terrorists before they act. Clearly, the individual liberty and privacy aspects of this are chilling. The Senate now agrees.

Curbs on the TIAP were adopted by unanimous consent as part of amendments to a spending bill. The amendment was sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon (D) along with Diane Feinstein of California. Before this bill goes to the White House it will likely go to a House/Senate Conference Committee, so the language could still change. At this time, the bill calls for a halt to research and development of the TIAP within 60 days unless the Defense Department submits a detailed report on the TIAP, including its impact on civil liberties. The big end run around this bill is that Bush can continue research by certifying that no report to Congress can be provided without endangering national security. However, once the system is deployed it may only be used to support military and foreign intelligence operations. It would be restricted from domestic U.S. use unless Congress expressly authorized its use.

You can read the text of the amendment itself here.

Thursday, January 23
Russian Identity Theft
Credit card numbers, home addresses and identity numbers of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of customers of Mobile Telesystems, a Russian mobile phone company were stolen and passed around on CD's on the streets of Moscow. These CD's purportedly contained the entire database of five million customers. The company says that it had no security breach. Mobile phone operators and Internet services are required by Russian law to hand over information about their customers to the police and to government agencies like the Federal Security Service, the successor to the K.G.B. There is speculation that a low-paid employee at an agency may have sold the data. (The story is at the NYTimes, id and password: "rbyrd").

This intentional disclosure of mass quantities of personally identifiable information is something else that we should be concerned about as the U.S. government undertakes to mine the vast amounts of data available on each of us. Let's assume for arguments sake, that the Information Awareness Project isn't the end of civil liberties that I have called it. Let's stretch our imaginations and assume that it has merits and that the people who are in charge can be trusted not to abuse their authority. Okay, now let's say that a disgruntled employee decides to market CD's with the personal data of every U.S. citizen. Or they might just post the information on the internet. It is possible. This is one more thing to think about as we travel down that very slippery slope of implementing anti-terrorism measures.

If things happen in threes then my wife is safe. It started two weeks ago. My two year old daughter and I were playing in the kitchen. She was laughing and giggling. I was on my back holding her above me. She was flying. With her legs and arms outstretched she was flying like a bird. Unbeknownst to me, she had grabbed a magnet off of the refrigerator. (Yes, our refrigerator is adorned with at least a dozen magnets. These magnets hold our daughter's artwork and numerous photographs of friends. Unlike our pristine refrigerator in our prechild days, this frig is covered with paper. It is amazing how one's standards change when there is a little one in the house.) She was waving her hands in the air when she dropped the magnet. It was just my luck that my mouth was wide open. I was laughing too. The magnet landed on and chipped one of my teeth. The chip wasn't bad, but it sure hurt. I'm fine.

One night, a week and a half ago, while I was driving home my wife called me on my cellphone. It was odd that she was calling me since we had last spoken only a few minutes earlier. A lot can happen in a few minutes. It only takes a moment to change everything.

I answered the phone and at first could only hear my daughter crying. My daughter had been having a great time. She had been dancing to music, The Wiggles. Part of her dancing entailed running around in circles and jumping up and down. She either got dizzy or simply slipped. She fell and hit her head. In the process her upper and lower teeth slammed together. At this point all my wife knew for sure was that our daughter's mouth was bleeding copiously. It seemed like an eternity, but I was home in minutes. I walked into the house to see my sobbing daughter sitting in my wife's lap on our couch. Our daughter was sucking on a cloth with ice, but still managed to cry very loudly. There was blood on the cloth. There was blood all over my daughter and her clothes. There was blood on my wife's clothes. Trust me, mouth wounds can really bleed.

My wife and I quickly brought our daughter into a bathroom. There the light was the brightest. I held my daughter and her mom examined her teeth. One tooth had a small chip and one beside it was loose. The teeth didn't seem as bad as we had feared. But we wanted to be sure. This was our daughter with her beautiful smile. I took my daughter upstairs to her room. I held her with the cloth in her mouth. My wife called the dentist. It was after hours, but amazingly he called back within minutes. He assured us that if a tooth didn't turn yellow then the teeth were fine. We should monitor the loose tooth though to make sure it firms up. Whew.

The next morning was a Saturday. We were all at home getting ready to eat breakfast. Our daughter was playing with playdough when for no apparent reason she screamed and ran to her mom. She had bitten one the playdough canisters. The front face -- the enamel -- of the chipped tooth had fallen off. The tooth was yellow and exposed. Based on the crying, nerves seemed to be exposed too. We phoned the dentist again. He was out of town. They would get a message to him as soon as they could. A couple hours later he called back. Yes, now he should look at her teeth. Fortunately, my wife already had a cleaning scheduled for herself Monday afternoon. Our daughter would be examined then too.

On Monday afternoon I met my wife and daughter at the dentist's office. Our son was with a sitter. My wife was called in first. We followed her into her "suite". We showed our daughter what everything was and what they were going to do to mommies' teeth. Now they were ready for my daughter. She held my hand and walked with me into the adjoining dental "suite". I sat on the chair. She sat in my lap. Our big girl did great. We were very proud of her. Then the dentist asked her to open her mouth, she opened her mouth. When he wiggled each tooth and poked at her teeth and gums she didn't protest. Her yellow tooth was okay. The nerve was not exposed. A plastic coating could be placed over the tooth, but that should wait until her two and a half year cleaning so that the tooth can be evaluated again. The problem was the tooth beside it. The loose tooth. If that tooth stayed loose it might have nerve damage and might yellow. Only time would tell.

My daughter and I left the dentist's together and her mom stayed for her own cleaning. Our dentist and his staff was wonderful. They kept coming in with gifts for our daughter. First she was allowed to pick a little toy from a basket. Then she was given her own tooth brush, of course. As we were leaving a hygienist came up to us with a helium balloon.. This going to the dentist thing for a child is highly profitable.

It has been almost two weeks and the teeth seem to be healing well. Although our daughter's smile now has a yellowed spot, she is fine.

Our son has been fussy for about a week. He has been snuffly and hasn't been sleeping too well. We'd been checking, but couldn't see or feel any teeth. He was biting down strongly on anything that he put in his mouth, but there was no sign of a tooth. Was he or wasn't he teething? Two days ago my wife felt a tooth. Thank God. It is nice to know the reason for a baby's behavior change. I looked but didn't see the tooth. I let him bite on my little finger, but didn't feel the tooth at first. And then I felt it. Baby teeth are very sharp. His tooth, emerging from the gum, left a distinctive dent in the skin on my knuckle. This was good tooth news. Our son has his first tooth! He was four months old yesterday. His teeth are coming in early. His sister had her first tooth at about the same time.

That has been part of our family story over the past two weeks. Two chipped teeth. One loose tooth. One new tooth.

Mark Fiore's latest is based on reality TV. He has ideas for the new mid-season lineup. He calls it Exile TV.

Wednesday, January 22
Well said ...
"War is always the admission of defeat and is always the worst of solutions. President Jacques Chirac of France said. "And hence everything must be done to avoid it."

Thanks to Blogger's help we're back!

Identity Theft
Identity-Theft Complaints Top Consumer-Fraud List
Complaints about identity theft nearly doubled in 2002 as the fast-growing crime topped the government's list of consumer frauds for a third consecutive year.

The Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday that 43% of about 380,000 complaints involved the hijacking of someone's identity information, such as a credit card or Social Security number, to steal money or commit fraud.

The figures come from a government database of complaints collected from the FTC, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and scores of law enforcement and consumer groups. Gripes about fraud in Internet auctions ranked No. 2 and accounted for 13% of complaints.

Howard Beales, chief of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said complaints about identity theft have increased along with greater public awareness of the problem prompted by the agency's efforts and recent high-profile identity-theft cases.

"More people know where to complain about fraud and ID theft," he said. The agency plans to have a more detailed report on identity theft next month, Mr. Beales noted.

Up to 700,000 people in the U.S. may be victimized by identity bandits each year, the Justice Department said. It costs the average victim more than $1,000 in expenses to cope with the damage to their accounts and reputations, the FTC has said.

"This is a crime that is almost solely on the shoulders of the victim to resolve," said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a San Diego consumer group. "They're beleaguered, they're tired, they're angry, and it takes them a good deal of time to recover." From the Wallstreet Journal (Subscription required.)

Thanks to Busy Busy Busy for the link to this site. If you haven't already, check out Busy Busy Busy. It has much more than foma.

Blogger changed some of the CSS code for my template. That seems to have been one of the problems. I will continue to work on this and hope to have it resolved satisfactorily shortly.

Tuesday, January 21
Measure Your Footprint
How many acres does it take to support your lifestyle? The Ecological Footprint Quiz will tell you. It estimates the amount of productive land and water that is needed in order to support your lifestyle. I think that we are fairly frugal and conscious about the resources that we use, but my family still came up as needing 15 acres to support us. We'll learn to do better. Take the Quiz.

Some GOP Governors intend to raise taxes, despite Bush's call for federal tax cuts.

Monday, January 20
Vive La France
"We think that military intervention would be the worst possible solution," French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said at a news conference.
You've got to admire the French. Bush is stationing troops throughout the Middle East and is poised to attack at any moment. But France isn't going to make it easy. France intends to veto any Security Council resolution to invade Iraq.
France's opposition to a war, emphatically delivered here by Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, is a major blow for the Bush administration, which has begun pouring tens of thousands of troops into the Persian Gulf in preparation for a military conflict this spring. The administration had hoped to mark the final phase in its confrontation with Iraq when U.N. weapons inspectors deliver a progress report Monday.

But in a diplomatic version of ambush, France and other countries used a high-level Security Council meeting on terrorism to lay down their markers for the debate that will commence next week on the inspectors' report. Russia and China, which have veto power, and Germany, which will chair the Security Council in February, also signaled today they were willing to let the inspections continue for months.
I love this quote from Colin Powell.
"If the United Nations is going to be relevant," he added, "it has to take a firm stand."
In other words, if the UN wants to be "relevant" then it needs to play along with the U.S. What arrogance. Play along with us or else. The U.S. government under Bush has become very mean spirited indeed.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today is Martin Luther King Day.

Visualize peace.


Sunday, January 19
Blogger has been acting up so I haven't been sure that things were posting. Along those lines, I apologize for the look and feel of this site. I don't like it. I didn't choose it. I haven't changed the template. I didn't alter the code. (Although the dark background sure makes the Oompa Loompas stand out.) Some say that Mozilla -- which I use -- strips code on its own. I don't know what happened. When I get a chance, hopefully by midweek, I will review the html and try to restore the old look. Until then please be patient.

Saturday, January 18
Sometimes it is Pink Floyd, sometimes it is Springsteen, sometimes the mood calls for Coldplay. And sometimes when you least expect it:

Oompa Loompa, doompadee doo
We have a perfect puzzle for you.
Oompa Loompa, doompadee dee
If you are wise you will listen me.

What do you get when you guzzle down sweets,
Eating as much as an elephant eats?
What are you at getting terribly fat?
What do you think will come of that?
I don't like the look of it.

Gum chewing's fine when it's once in a while.
It stops you from smoking and brightens your smile
But it's repulsive, revolting, and wrong,
Chewing and chewing all day long
The way that a cow does.

Who do you blame when your kid is a brat,
Pampered and spoiled like a Siamese cat?
Blaming the kids is a lion of shame.
You know exactly who's to blame:
The mother and the father.

What do you get from a glut of T.V.?
A pain in the neck and an I.Q. of three.
Why don't you try simply reading a book?
Or could you just not bear to look?
You'll get no commercials.

If you're not greedy you will go far.
Given good manners you will go far.
If you're not spoiled then you will go far.
You will live in happiness too.
Like the Oompa Loompa doompadee do.
Thanks to The Oompa Loompa Philosohy for the lyrics.
If you didn't like this bit of whimsy or find the Oompa Loompas a little scary you can blame Ted Barlow for this post. He started it even before the Lightbulb jokes. I'm thinking of getting this on a DVD for me -- uh, my kids, but Amazon is sold out.

Friday, January 17
That's Why Costco Carries Odwalla -- Doh!
When it comes to small "organic" values centered businesses I apparently have been living in a dream. I thought that Odwalla juices was still independently owned and operated near Santa Cruz. When I read this month's issue of Mother Jones today, I learned that I was sorely mistaken. I was given a hint about this when I saw Odwalla juices at Costco. At the time, I had thought, "Wow. Little juice company makes it big." Not. Coke owns Odwalla. I guess that I have to find another extravagant juice brand to purchase when I want a treat. This same thing happened when Unilever bought Ben and Jerry's. Somehow those monthly coupons for a free pint of Ben and Jerry's that Working Assetsprovides were less rewarding. I am not as loyal to the brand and I feel no social satisfaction when I eat it.

Now Stonyfield Farms is being bought. There are other yogurts, but if this trend continues they will be bought up too. No matter how we try, greed seems to triumph over everything and the large corporations just get larger.
This change of fortunes is part of a trend of socially responsible businesses, or srbs, being acquired by vast multinational corporations. Such values-led companies boast of having a "triple bottom line" -- people, planet, and profits. But profits for whom? Now when you walk the aisles of a natural foods store, the image of what you are buying (small, local, earthy) may bear little resemblance to reality (corporate, global, industrial). In the last five years, scores of SRBs -- which range from small organic producers on up to a company like Ben & Jerry's that once gave a sizable percentage of its profits to environmental and social causes -- have been bought by corporate conglomerates. To wit: The Samantha and Odwalla premium juice brands have been swallowed up by Coca-Cola, all-natural Boca Burger was bought by Kraft (a subsidiary of Philip Morris), and organic food leader Cascadian Farm was absorbed by General Mills. Two companies, United Natural Foods and Tree of Life, now control the distribution of about three-fourths of all-natural products. The icons of the srb movement -- quixotic activist entrepreneurs like Ben Cohen at Ben & Jerry's and Anita Roddick at The Body Shop -- have been pushed aside at the companies they founded, their voices diminished.

The latest such company to go on the auction block is Stonyfield Farm. In late 2001, the nation's largest organic yogurt brand struck a deal worth an estimated $125 million to be acquired by Groupe Danone, the French parent company of Dannon yogurt. By early 2004, if Stonyfield president and ceo Gary Hirshberg doesn't get cold feet, the maker of the world's top-selling yogurt (in the United States, Dannon is second to Yoplait) will take majority control of America's fourth-leading yogurt brand.

Germany Prepares for Smallpox
The German government will acquire 100 million units of smallpox vaccine by the end of this year in order to assure that the country's entire population of 82 million is protected against a possible biological attack, Health and Social Affairs Minister Ulla Schmidt said. She told reporters on Wednesday that two-thirds of the vaccines would be in storage by April. Schmidt declined to divulge the total cost, but said the 16 federal states would be expected to pick up a third of it. Schmidt said that with no imminent threat of a smallpox attack, the vaccine was being stockpiled as a precautionary measure, and that there were no plans to begin inoculations until a case of smallpox - which has been declared eradicated, but lives on in military and other laboratories - is reported in Germany. Detailed emergency plans are expected by the end of January, she said. The Robert Koch Institute, which is responsible for helping the German government control epidemics, said that for the vaccines to be effective the entire German population would have to be inoculated within five days of the first case of smallpox appearing here.

Middle East Perspective?
The english language press in Saudi Arabia questions Bush's motives in Iraq. Even they admit that control of the second largest source of oil is the real motive. They get their point across by quoting U.S. activists.
Regarding the US policy towards Iraq and North Korea, he [John Burroughs, executive director of the New York-based Lawyer’s Committee on Nuclear Policy] said it “has to do with greater military vulnerability with Iraq, a record of aggression of the Hussein regime, the Bush Administration’s desire to create a political/imperial presence in the Middle East, and the interest in controlling sources of oil.”

Asked if he thought controlling oil was on the Bush Administration’s agenda, Burroughs said: “Yes. Not necessarily just for US consumption, but on behalf of the US and its allies. That doesn’t mean that US companies would own the oil, either, but once you’re there in the country, you have a great deal of influence on how the oil is handled.”
“The players in the administration, and the interests that they represent, are a kind of ‘fundamentalist imperialists.’ They really seem to believe that they have an inherent God-given right to determine who controls the world’s resources — and that it’s them.”

Cabasso [executive director of the anti-nuclear Western States Legal Foundation]said the administration appears to believe it can initiate a military action against any target anywhere in the world for any reason whatsoever, with or without the concurrence of allies or the international community, and that this ideology has been transplanted into official policy.

“I think the Bush Administration fundamental supremacist ideology is an element that is translating into its actions around the world,” said Cabasso.

Speaking on the differences of North Korea and Iraq, she said the administration “is calculating how many Americans will die, how much the war will cost, and what the long term benefits will be to US elite interests that are being served — because this policy is certainly not serving the interests of the vast majority of the American population.”

Thursday, January 16
Thanks to Seeing The Forest and Skimble for adding this blog to their blogrolls. Those are both excellent sites, I read them daily.

67 per cent of Canadians think the U.S. is "starting to act like a bully with the rest of the world."

Mark Fiore on executions.

Wednesday, January 15
Have a deflated ego? Then you must drive an SUV. If you drive a Hummer you are really in trouble. Read this.

John Le Carre
John Le Carre, the spy thriller author, has a brilliantly blazing ciritque of Bush in the London Times.

America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.

The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams. As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded. The combination of compliant US media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press.

The imminent war was planned years before bin Laden struck, but it was he who made it possible. Without bin Laden, the Bush junta would still be trying to explain such tricky matters as how it came to be elected in the first place; Enron; its shameless favouring of the already-too-rich; its reckless disregard for the world’s poor, the ecology and a raft of unilaterally abrogated international treaties.
How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America’s anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history. But they swung it. A recent poll tells us that one in two Americans now believe Saddam was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre....

But will we win, Daddy?”
“Of course, child. It will all be over while you’re still in bed.”
“Because otherwise Mr Bush’s voters will get terribly impatient and may decide not to vote for him.”
“But will people be killed, Daddy?”
“Nobody you know, darling. Just foreign people.”
“Can I watch it on television?”
“Only if Mr Bush says you can.”
“And afterwards, will everything be normal again? Nobody will do anything horrid any more?”
“Hush child, and go to sleep.”

....are we comfortably numb yet?.....

No More Mister Nice Blog has the lowdown on the new job for yet another corrupt Bush cabal loyalist.
"Otto Reich, a terrorist’s champion, will soon work for the National Security Council under Condoleezza Rice."

Yet another win for large corporations. Michael Eisner is happy.

Tuesday, January 14
Whatever happened to "Just say, "NO"?

Harkin Calls For Hearings
Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa has called for hearings to investigate Poindexter's Information Awareness Project.
“I am very concerned about the Total Information Awareness Project, its legality and the threat it poses to the privacy of law-abiding Americans. Just as troubling is the choice of Adm. John Poindexter to head up this project,” Harkin said.
Thank God someone is paying attention.

Are You Comfortable?
Is it just me? I can't fathom how Bush's popularity could be anywhere but dismal? Even with his popularity in decline in the latest polls, he is still revered by half the U.S. population. How can that be? Let's review what he has done in the areas that are of particular concern to me -- the environment, civil rights, the economy and foreign affairs.

1) The economy has been in a freefall since he took office and he has done nothing to stimulate the economy. In fact, any moves that he has taken towards economic assistance have been for large corporations and the upper 5% of taxpayers.

2) He has taken actions to build roads in wilderness areas, gutted the clean air act, allowed tuna no matter how it is caught to be called "dolphin safe", moved to lift restrictions on mountain top mining, opened up forests to clearcutting and attempted to open ANWR to drilling. This list is certainly not exhaustive, but it shows the amazing depth and scope of Bush's efforts to undo all environmental protections.

3) He and his Attorney General -- John "Lock 'em up in some dark space" Ashcroft -- have eviscerated the fourth amendment with the Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Act and the Information Awareness project. They have also effectively quashed the first amendment by muting dissent, since anyone who dissents may not be a patriot. And if you are not clearly a patriot then you are suspect.

4) Under Bush's tutelage the U.S. has suffered attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and he has failed to find public enemy number one -- Osama bin Laden. Bush has succeeded in lowering the level of U.S. prestige in eyes of the world. How nice. His saber rattling against Iraq has fueled anti-U.S. sentiments throughout the globe and a war with Iraq will likely destabilize the world even more and only benefit his oil company buddies. Lastly, Bush has so muddled relations with North Korea that we have the weaker hand in the game of nuclear brinkmanship and tensions have heightened to levels not known since the end of the Korean War.

That is quite a record of accomplishment. Bush is hurting our lungs, our pocket book and our inalienable rights. Thousands have died under his watch and more will die in a war with Iraq. My confidence is at an all time low. How could anyone support him based on this record? Clearly, people are not paying attention. Clearly people are not getting the news that they need to make informed decisions. Too many people are comfortably numb.
Just a little pinprick.
There'll be no more aaaaaaaaah!
But you may feel a little sick. Can you stand up?
I do believe it's working, good.
That'll keep you going through the show
Come on it's time to go.

There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship, smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying.
When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye.
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now
The child is grown,
The dream is gone.
I have become comfortably numb.

PinkFloyd, Comfortably Numb, from The Wall.

Monday, January 13
Clonaid and Iraq
Clonaid and Iraq, the press handles them the same. Are they the same story? Find out here.

Within the past three weeks, American intelligence gathered what officials described as credible evidence of a planned bombing of a passenger airliner contracted to fly troops and freight for the military. NYTimes (name and password:rbyrd)

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I am a lucky guy. My wife gave me an iPod for Christmas. Occasionally, for inspiration, I now listen to Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. (I downloaded the speech from iTunes on my iBook. Speeches from John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King were preloaded by Apple. That in itself tells you something very positive about that company.)

I bring this up because Martin Luther King Day is one week from today. I wonder how many people, outside of blogland, know who King was and remember what he stood for. As this country becomes the bully of the globe and as we prepare for war with Iraq, King's nonviolent crusade is important to keep in mind. Positive change can be brought about by positive means.

I started thinking about MLK this morning after visiting Ray Garraud's blog. Ray has an excerpt from and a link to an article in the Village Voice on MLK. These are worth reading. I have copied the excerpt below:
Beyond the black community, Martin Luther King Day (which falls this year on January 20) is a rote commemoration. There are speeches to report and civic lessons to be taught, but that's where the impact of this occasion ends. King is what you might call an empty icon. His beliefs have been stripped of their materiality, so that he stands for an abstract ideal of brotherhood—not the sort of thing to inspire the show-me young. Yet, in an era when money talks and the military walks, King's politics are more important than his persona. He was that rare thing in America today, a radical reformer who believed the system could be changed and saved.

Though he had his doubts, especially near the end, King held to the conviction that justice would come through a new consciousness rooted in empathy. If this dream reeks of '60s naïveté, it did even then to militants who regarded King as a fool at best. Unfortunately their thinking prevailed. No wonder contempt for King has such currency now, since a generation has grown up without a leader who embodies his visionary politics. It's hard to imagine a moment when such thinking mobilized millions. But as we verge on another imperial war at the cost of social progress, there's no more vital time to remember the real King. And as we return to a policy of officially sanctioned whacking, there's no better reason to revisit the most unresolved assassination in modern American history.
Also, be sure to check out The King Center. Finally, an excerpt from "The Drum Major Instinct", a sermon by MLK in 1968.
Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major. Say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. Say that I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things in life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. And that's all I want to say. If I can help somebody as I pass along, if I can cheer somebody with a word or song, if I can show somebody he is traveling wrong, then my living will not be in vain."

The Blog Rounds
P.L.A. has an excellent discussion of the political strategy around the Pickering nomination. Can the Democrats really only focus on one issue before tiring out?

Check out the worldometers. As I write this there were 130, 864 births today -- according to the meter. The numbers keep growing. Another meter tells us that there are 273,750,000 people going hungry today. Also, humans have generated 4,406,865 metric tons of waste this year. If that last number is accurate for the calendar year, it is astounding. Imagine the total at the end of this year. I found this site via P.L.A.

According to Vigilant, Iraq has shut down internet connections in order to halt the flow of U.S. propaganda.

Ampersand has the breakdown for women and minorities in the 108th Congress.

Ruminate This, back from the fish tank, links to the Mark Murford (of the SF Chronicle) response to the Bush cabal's war plans. "Happy Imbeciles At War Massive U.S. military buildup, billions of dollars, a useless enemy, and no one seems to know why". Be sure to read the article. I'm grateful that she has this link, since I had already read the article and meant to mention it last week. It is a pain when work interferes with blogging. But I have to pay the bills and send the kids to school.

Sunday, January 12
U.S. Media: The View From London
We've had many discussions about the nonexistent liberal press in the U.S. Now, Matthew Engel of the Guardian has chimed in. The state of American media is clear to everyone, but Americans. Engel bemoans the absence of an independent U.S. press. We know, and the British know, that most Americans don't know the truth. Read on, for a British view of the demise of the American media, along the way, the paper skewers Bob Woodward and praises blogs.
It is more than 30 years ago now, though it seems like yesterday. A Republican president, much derided by liberals, was in the White House and his opponents were being lashed by the rightwing attack dogs, led then by the vice-president, Spiro Agnew.

The elite East Coast press, exemplified by the New York Times and the Washington Post, were the special targets of his scorn: "pointy-headed liberals," he called them, and "the nattering nabobs of negativism".

But the press laughed last and longest. Agnew resigned in disgrace, to be followed by his president, Richard Nixon - forced out by the investigations of two Post reporters, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
Where are the pointy-head liberals now? The change can be summed up in Woodward's own career. As the Watergate investigator, he not merely protected his sources, he glamorised them. Now, still on the Post staff, he functions as a semi-official court stenographer to the Bush White House. And it is notable that those who talk to him - such as the president himself - always play the heroic role in his stories.
The supposedly liberal American press has become a dog that never bites, hardly barks but really loves rolling over and having its tummy tickled.

Indeed, there is hardly any such thing as the liberal press. Since Watergate, the Post has acquired a virtual monopoly over the Washington newspaper market, grown fat and - frankly - journalistically flabby. Its op-ed page is notable for its turgid prose, its conservative slant, and the apologetic tone of its more liberal contributors.
Day after day, rightwing radio talk hosts dominate the airwaves, deriding opponents and cutting off callers who argue. Indeed, to emphasise the turnaround, one of the most ferocious is run by G Gordon Liddy, who was jailed for his role in Watergate. ("There are no second acts in American lives" - Scott Fitzgerald. Wrong.) The doyen of them, Rush Limbaugh, reaches an estimated 20 million listeners a week. Supporters of the Democrats are rather desperately trying to find ways of countering this. "Most liberal talk shows are so, you know, milquetoast, who would want to listen to them?" Hollywood producer and Clinton buddy Harry Thomason complained to the New York Times. "Conservatives are all fire and brimstone."

On TV Rupert Murdoch's Fox network, pursuing a thinly disguised rightwing agenda, has taken over the No 1 cable news spot from CNN; Bill O'Reilly, the host of its flagship show, makes Limbaugh seem wishy-washy.
Most Washington reports consist of stories emanating from inside the government: these may (rarely) be genuine leaks; they may come from officials anxious to brief against rival officials, but that too is rare in this disciplined and corporately-run administration. Most of these stories, which look like impressive scoops at first glimpse, actually come from officials using the press to perform on-message spin. Whatever the category, the papers lap this up, even when it is obvious nonsense, a practice that reached its apogee last year when palpably absurd plans for the invasion of Iraq emerged, allegedly from inside the Pentagon, on to the New York Times front page.
To some extent, journalists have felt obliged to tone down criticisms because of the sense of shared national purpose after September 11. Even that cannot explain how the papers cravenly ignored the Trent Lott story. Lott, the veteran senator from Mississippi, made his pro- segregation statement on a Thursday, in full earshot of the Washington press corps. The Times and Post both failed to mention it. Indeed, it was almost totally ignored until the following Tuesday, kept alive until then only by a handful of bloggers. If there is a Watergate scandal lurking in this administration, it is unlikely to be Woodward or his colleagues who will tell us about it. If it emerges, it will probably come out on the web. That is a devastating indictment of the state of American newspapers.

Bush Making DOJ a Partisan Shop
Clearly, Bush is bent on making the federal judiciary a conservative club, as evidenced by nominees like Pickering. (Whose renomination has been discussed on the Daily Kos and extensively on eschaton.) But, as you know, this administration moves on all fronts at once in its insidious efforts to install its creed. The Bush cabal is now working to remake the Department of Justice in its own ultra conservative image. What were once bipartisan civil service positions are now being overseen by Mr. Civil Rights himself, John Ashcroft.
A special Justice Department recruitment program long overseen by career employees has been moved firmly under the control of Attorney General John D. Ashcroft and his senior aides, prompting complaints that the effort is being politicized, according to current and former department officials.

Ashcroft decided last year that the Attorney General's Honors Program, which offers new law school graduates full-time positions within Justice and its component agencies, would benefit from more direct participation by him and other political appointees, officials said.
"It is much, much more politicized than last year," said one adviser at a prominent East Coast law school. "They have gotten the front office people involved, and that has resulted in a different type of student. . . . There were several students taken this year who would not be considered under objective standards, and all of them were politically conservative." Washington Post

News Mix
Purple thong, fake nails and breast implants: evidence in trial of stripper-mayor. Sac Bee.

When you buy gas you are supporting terrorism. If you drive an SUV you are supporting terrorism. See the commercials here.

In a cheeky protest, Bay Area anti-war activists go nude in surge of creative vigils. Chronicle.

Saturday, January 11
Bush 9/11 Video
I had heard about Bush's (non)reaction to the news of the planes hitting the World Trade Center, but it is telling to actually see his lack of reaction. Yesterday, I landed on a site with a video of Bush Jr. that was taken on September 11th 2001. In fact, it purports to have been taken at the time of the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon. The video does not appear to digitally altered at the significant points, but experts may disagree. The video probably has circulated the net dozens of times; however, it is new to me.

What I find striking about the images of Bush is that he doesn't react at all to news that the U.S. is under attack. He either was to dumb to comprehend what was happening or he wasn't surprised. Either way he isn't the guy I want as my president. I've heard that maybe he didn't want to disturb the children, so he stayed seated in his chair. I don't know about you, but when the U.S. is attacked I would like to think that our president is quick and decisive in his/her responses. Okay, you can find the video here. It may load a little slowly, but be patient.

Friday, January 10
Raids Recover Beatle's Tapes
These probably aren't 8 tracks.
Police raids in England and the Netherlands on Friday recovered what could be about 500 original Beatles tapes that were stolen in the 1970s, including some never-released tracks.

British police said the tapes were "priceless," and that the only such recordings that have been heard before were bootlegs.

Genetically Modifed Food Crusade
The Bush administration is now bullying our European allies. European's, as a rule, don't want genetically modified foods on their tables. The Bush cabal in yet another effort to promote its big business friends is now trying to force the EU to accept GM foods. Clearly nothing is more important to Bush and company than amassing piles of the almighty dollar.
Insulting and threatening someone is no way to go about winning over their heart let alone their mind, especially when they suspect that their own health and the environment may be at risk and that you, the supplicant, are motivated purely by commercial considerations.
Yet, bizarrely, America seems to think that just such behaviour is exactly what is needed to persuade a sceptical Europe that genetically modified (GM) food is 100% safe and that Europe should rescind a four-year ban on new GM products.

This week Robert Zoellick, the US administration's top trade official, lashed out at a "luddite" and "immoral" Europe. European "antiscientific" policies were, he claimed, spreading to the developing world and convincing famine-hit countries to refuse GM food aid.

Pushing his own country ever closer towards a trade dispute with the EU that would dwarf all past spats, he called for the nth time for Europe's ban on new GM product approvals to be lifted and said he favoured legal action against the EU in the World Trade Organisation to force Europe to do the right thing. The Guardian

Public Service Sure Pays Well
Even though it has no permanent Chairperson, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (accounting oversight board) has finally met. Its first order of business was to set the board members' salaries. Each of the members gets a very generous $425,000! This is unbelievable pay for public service. It's more than the president gets paid. This board is a scandal in and of itself.
Six months after it was created by Congress, the new board overseeing the accounting profession — the centerpiece of reform legislation after a year of corporate scandal — held its first formal meeting today without a permanent chairman, a senior staff or a final budget.

During the meeting, the new board members voted themselves annual salaries of $452,000, or $52,000 more than the pay of the president. (Once it has a chairman, the board said, it plans to pay that official $560,000.)
Without a new leader, the board has had serious difficulty recruiting senior staff members even though it is offering some of the best salaries for public service jobs in town, including $425,000 to be the general counsel, $250,000 to be the director of external communications, and $300,000 to be the deputy director in charge of registration. NYTimes (password required.)
This meeting and the high salaries all seem to have taken place without much of a peep in the press. I think that salaries like these should be headline news.

No Smoking Gun, No War, Right?
Don't count on it. Bush will go to war to protect oil interests no matter what is or isn't found in Iraq.
United Nations weapons inspectors reported Thursday they had found no "smoking gun" in their search for banned weapons in Iraq, but the inspectors said the government of Saddam Hussein has not been forthcoming with answers, nor has it allowed scientists to be interviewed privately about weapons programs.

As rhetoric escalated in the dispute between Washington and Baghdad, U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix told the U.N. Security Council that his team has found no concrete evidence of weapons of mass destruction in its six weeks of investigation.
Blix had been saying that he would do things his way. But he seems to be getting with the U.S. program. He understands that the U.S. wants to go into Iraq no matter what and now he is beginning to play along.
However, he [Blix]said the Hussein regime has "failed to answer a great many questions" that inspectors have raised over the 12,000-page weapons declaration that Iraq submitted last month, as required by a U.N. resolution.

"The absence of a smoking gun and the prompt access which we have had so far, and which is most welcome, is no guarantee that prohibited stocks or activities could not exist at other sites, whether above ground, underground or in mobile units," Blix told the Security Council.
The Bush administration is clear that it doesn't matter what is or is not found. The U.S. is going in. If nothing is found it is because it was hidden in places where Blix hasn't looked. The only way that Iraq can show that it doesn't have "weapons of mass destruction" is to show these very weapons to Blix. Which would then mean, of course, that Iraq has the weapons. If you don't have something you can't show it. I don't know if Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. Says that it has proof that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, but it won't share the evidence with anyone. Bush is acting like a bully, "I know something that you don't know, nah, nah nah."

This whole affair sounds like the Salem Witch trials. In those trials, just being accused meant that the person was a witch. The trials were a mere formality.
What evil spirit have you familiarity with?
Have you made no contract with the devil?
Why do you hurt these children?
I do not hurt them. I scorn it.
Who do you imploy then to do it?
I imploy no body.
What creature do you imploy then?
No creature. I am falsely accused.

Dialogue based on the examination of Sarah Good by Judges Hathorne and Corwin,
from The Salem Witchcraft Papers, Book II, p.355. Sarah Goode was executed.
From the Salem Witch Trials Memorial.
Saddam Hussein is in a very similar situation. From Bush's point of view he is a witch.
The Bush administration, however, said the absence of evidence was proof that Hussein's regime has managed to keep weapons from being discovered by the U.N.-mandated inspections.

"The heart of the problem is Iraq is very good at hiding things," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said. "We know for a fact that there are weapons there."

The Bush won't listen to anyone who disagrees. One is either with the Bush administration or against it. I am against it. If there is a need to invade Iraq, I want proof. I don't want people killed and a nation made our subjects so that Exxon-Mobil can have a steady supply of oil with which to increase its wealth.

Thursday, January 9
the bush tax cuts
Molly Ivans tells it like it is. You know it already. You've read it other places. The Bush tax cuts help no one, but Bush's wealthy friends.
The dirty little secret about taxes in this country is that rich people and corporations mostly don't pay them now -- they have a whole system of shelters and offshore deals. We don't need to raise taxes in this country -- we need to collect them.

The final reason that it's dumb to cut taxes for the rich is the problem of social justice. We're already in trouble because the income gap between the rich and the rest of us keeps getting worse and worse. The rich buy their way out of our public institutions -- schools, hospitals, parks -- and then contribute money to politicians who let the public infrastructure go to hell. It doesn't work.

India v. Pakistan
India and Pakistan are still at it. This is another simmering region of the world that is nearing boiling point. The U.S. distraction with Iraq won't help this dispute. The more the U.S. looks away, the more likely war becomes. The following is from today's Guardian.
India today conducted a test launch of a long-range ballistic missile that would be capable of delivering a nuclear weapon to just about any part of Pakistan.
India said today's trial was routine and had nothing to do with recent posturing by Pakistani and Indian military officials. The Indian defence ministry said the Agni I missile was fired from the Chandipur-on-Sea testing range on the coast of eastern Orissa state. It has a range of 700km.

"Today's test-firing of the missile was a smooth text book launch," India's Hindustan Times quotes defence sources as saying.

The foreign office immediately expressed regret over the missile test.

"We believe that restraint in developing possible nuclear weapon delivery systems is in the long-term interest of India and the region. The test sends the wrong signals within the region and beyond," said a spokesman.

The test firing came as the Indian and Pakistani governments threatened each other with possible nuclear consequences if either takes aggressive military action.

India and Pakistan came to the brink of a fourth war last year after New Delhi accused Islamabad's spy agency and Pakistan-based Islamic rebel groups of attacking the Indian parliament in December 2001. Pakistan denied this.

Yesterday Pakistan's nuclear research facility approved deployment of a new medium-range ballistic missile, the Ghauri, capable of carrying a nuclear weapon. India already has between 100 and 150 warheads, and Pakistan has between 25 and 50, according to Jane's Strategic Weapons System.

The main dispute between the two countries - and the focus of two of their three wars - is their conflicting claims to the Himalayan region of Kashmir. India currently controls two-thirds of the region and Pakistan the other third.

Wednesday, January 8
Snowmobiles Redux
An update to earlier discussions (here and here) on Bush's lax rules regarding snowmobiles. Another lawsuit has been filed.
Environmental groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its newest antipollution regulations for snowmobiles and other off-road vehicles.

The groups, Bluewater Network in San Francisco and Environmental Defense, charged that the regulations violate the Clean Air Act because they don't require the use of cleaner engines, already on the market, that drastically reduce emissions.

"By allowing the indefinite sale of dirty two-stroke engines in snowmobiles,

backing off on catalytic converters for all-terrain vehicles and failing to regulate noise pollution, we'll sacrifice air quality, public health and wildlife," said Bluewater's executive director, Russell Long.

Four-stroke engines reduce hydrocarbon emission by more than 95 percent, the suit said. Citing the state Air Resources Board, it contends that a day's ride in a conventional two-stroke engine releases the same amount of pollution as driving a modern car 100,000 miles.

The suit, filed in the Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, also challenges the failure to require catalytic converters and noise controls on the vehicles. SF Chronicle

Techs and Bush's Tax Plan
I oppose the newly released Bush tax plan because it, like all things Bush, favors the wealthy. If you want to read more on the tax plan check out Robert Reich's comments in the LA Times (that I learned of via See the Forest) and Skimble's comments.

Living in Northern California, what I find interesting is how, if the dividend tax cut should become law, the tech industry will be impacted. Historically, tech companies do not issue dividends. During the booming 90's it was assumed that the constant rise in share prices was enough of an investment return. Bush's proposal could change how techs do business vis a vis their shareholders.
Bush's proposal to cut taxes on dividends could force tech companies that have never paid investors a dividend to reconsider. If they don't, analysts say, they may have to explain to investors what they plan to do with their stockpiles of cash.

So far, tech companies aren't rushing to make the change. For years they have held to the philosophy that rapid growth and soaring stock prices benefited investors more than stable dividends. They used their large cash reserves to fund research and acquisitions. Now that their growth has slowed, holding on to all of the money may no longer make as much sense for shareholders as it once did.
Oracle Corp. signaled Tuesday that it would review its policy on dividends if the tax cuts come. So, too, might Cisco Systems, whose cash and investment reserves of $21.2 billion are among industry's largest.
Not every tech company, of course, has much cash to hand to investors. The downturn still squeezing Silicon Valley has left many firms, particularly smaller and younger ones, struggling to preserve what money they have. That environment may prevent many companies from offering dividends, at least in the near future.

"I don't think you're going to find a quick response to this policy, because Silicon Valley companies are not experiencing the greatest of times," said John Shoven, director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and a board member of Cadence Design Systems. "Dividends will come later." SF Chronicle.

Apple Laptop
If you have an extra $3500 lying around please let me know. I use an iBook at home, but the new 17" Powerbooks that were unveiled at MacWorld SF are very cool.

The keyboard is even backlit with a light sensor that automatically adjusts the keyboard brightness based on the available ambient light. I work at night a lot and could sure use that.

"PC people are operators, but Mac people are owners." SF Chronicle.

Site tracking
Is it me? Is it Blogger? Is it free site visitor trackers? I started this site with Sitemeter. Then Sitemeter stopped working on Blogger, so I switched to Bravenet. Then a couple weeks ago the Bravenet counter stopped working. I rejoined Sitemeter and so far that counter has been working -- even though they disclose that they have been having difficulties with Blogger. Now, if I were a suspicious type, I would suspect that Blogger is coded so that nonBlogger site trackers don't function properly. But, I also have bStats which Blogger offers for free. bStats is on Blogger's servers so it should work the best, but bStats is so buggy it is worthless. That means that I still want to use a nonBlogger site meter.

Are the problems that I have been having due to coding errors on my part? Are these systems inherently buggy since they are free? Am I getting what I am paying for, in other words? Is Blogger interfering with the third party systems in order to promote its own proprietary software? Any ideas, comments, suggestions would be appreciated. Send an e-mail or add a comment.

Tuesday, January 7
The Book On Bush
David Frum, the speechwriter who coined the "Axis of Evil" phrase has just published a book on the Bush White House. Obviously, in the book "The Right Man", Frum has nice things to say about Bush that I strongly disagree with,
George Bush, the uncertain peacetime president, has been nothing short of superb as a wartime leader," Frum writes.
But at the same time there are excerpts that are more candid than I would expect from anyone who worked in this white house. At the same time there are no revelations, but the book confirms what we have known or strongly suspected.
depicts a president who is impatient, quick to anger and sometimes lacking in curiosity
He says Bush himself is often glib -- he would refer to environmentalists as "green-green lima beans." Frum also describes Bush as "often uncurious and as a result ill informed" on some matters that Frum does not specify.
Confronting a common criticism of the president, Frum also says: "Bush was not a lightweight. He was, rather, a very unfamiliar type of heavyweight. Words often failed him, his memory sometimes betrayed him, but his vision was large and clear.
the two aides on whom Bush has relied the most -- Rove and Karen Hughes. The latter left the White House payroll in July to return to Texas with her family, but she still serves as a key adviser to the president.

"Rove was a risk taker and an intellectual. Hughes loathed risk and abhorred ideas. Rove was a reader and a questioner -- a curious man, always eager to learn. Hughes rarely read books and distrusted people who did -- anything she did not already know she saw no point in knowing."

It was Hughes who laid down various rules for speechwriters, Frum says: Parents would be referred to as "moms and dads"; "tax cuts" would be called "tax relief," to come across as "a healing balm."
Frum was not impressed with most of Bush's staff.

"One seldom heard an unexpected thought in the Bush White House or met someone who possessed unusual knowledge. Aside from the witty and ingenious Mitch Daniels at the Office of Management and Budget and, of course, Karl Rove,

who played the unusual dual role of political guru and leading intellectual, conspicuous intelligence seemed actively unwelcome in the Bush White House," he writes.

As a workplace, the Bush White House is formal -- strictly blue and gray suits for men, few bright colors for women. Language is clean -- even a mild "damn" is frowned on.

Frum, a self-described "not especially observant Jew," found himself working in "the culture of modern evangelicalism" that prevails.

He added: "The television show 'The West Wing' might as well have been set aboard a Klingon starship for all it resembled life inside the Bush White House."

I fear that it is the Bush White House that is aboard the Klingon starship. I won't buy the book. These excerpts are from an article in the SF Chronicle.

In writing this book, it looks like Frum wasn't enough of a true believer. A true believer would have held their hand in a candle flame before they divulged information. Frum won't work in Washington again, at least not for Republicans.

Dems Control California
Yesterday Democrats were sworn into the eight statewide elected offices in California. It is the first time in 120 years that the Democrats have held all of the elected positions. The Democrats also control the state Senate and the Assembly. California is a Democratic state for now. If the politicians follow through on half of the plans that I heard yesterday we are in for exciting times -- despite the $35 billion deficit. Governor Gray Davis, in order to invigorate the economy, wants to create 500,000 new jobs, raise taxes and cut the state budget. Unlike Bush, he is vowing to raise taxes on the wealthiest individuals and businesses.
We need to be raising tax revenues back from where we cut them before," he said. "We cut taxes for the richest. It's time to get those back. They had a free ride for a while, but that is the first tax we have to get back."

The new Insurance Commissioner, John Garamendi, intends to work work for a California health care plan -- if we can't do it nationally we'll do it locally. Quite an undertaking, but worth attempting. The new Secretary of State, Kevin Shelley, wants online voter registration and then online voting. These people have a vision for California. Positive changes are being planned in this state, despite a record deficit, it almost makes one forget about that guy in the white house.

Monday, January 6
Stand Up, Keep Fighting
As 2003 begins in earnest and as conservatives are assuming more offices nationwide it is good to think of the green button, and the songs that were sung, that was handed out at Senator Paul Wellstone's memorial. (I haven't been able to locate a copy of the button or I would post it...) That button read, "Stand Up. Keep Fighting." Yesterday is gone and while there are lessons to be remembered, it is our task to face and master the uncertainties of the days ahead.

Today is inaugural day for statewide elected officials in California. I have two events to go to today so blogging may be light. I will post again today, if I get a chance between a swearing-in this morning and one this afternoon. But, before I add any more entries, I need to thank the Rittenhouse Review for adding this site to the comprehensive list of "Better Blogs". I am honored to be in the roll and I suggest that you check out the many other blogs on the list.

Sunday, January 5
49er Stunner
I've never mentioned sports on this site before, but for a Niners fan today was great. The San Francisco 49ers rallied from 24 down, and stunned the NY Giants 39-38. It was the second-biggest comeback in NFL playoff history. Quite the cardiac finish. You can read about it here and here. Sorry to Ray, who is probably a Giants fan.

Saturday, January 4
Bush Profits From War
In the early days of this blog I referenced arms dealings by the Carlyle Group,
The British government is planning on partially privatizing its weapons research by selling a stake in a top secret defense lab. The likely buyer of QinetiQ is the Carlyle Group. The Carlyle Group is
one of the biggest venture capital groups, a leviathan that commands respect and inspires awe in equal parts. Chaired by former US Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, the group's tentacles spread far and wide.

John Major, George Bush Sr and his former Secretary of State, James Baker, are on its payroll. Arthur Levitt, former chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, and ex-Bundesbank president Karl Otto Pohl are among its advisers. Besides the bin Laden family, which has disowned Osama, it has managed funds for Prince Alwaleed and the likes of George Soros... Yes, the President's dad is on the Carlyle Group payroll. A war here or there might get rid of a family enemy and could be personally profitable for the Bushes.
For the complete lowdown on the Carlyle Group check this out.
Like everyone else in the United States, the group stood transfixed as the events of September 11 unfolded. Present were former secretary of defense Frank Carlucci, former secretary of state James Baker III, and representatives of the bin Laden family. This was not some underground presidential bunker or Central Intelligence Agency interrogation room. It was the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, D.C., the plush setting for the annual investor conference of one of the most powerful, well-connected, and secretive companies in the world: the Carlyle Group. And since September 11, this little-known company has become unexpectedly important...
It is important to know that our President will personally profit from wars. I guess that a "few" deaths, the destruction of the economy, environmental devastation and the tossing aside of Constitutional rights doesn't matter when there is money to be made. Do you feel safe yet?

(Since I posted this entry the "hereinreality" link above, with the lowdown on the Carlyle Group, is no longer functioning. I have tried to load the site from a couple of different ways to no avail. The fact that this site won't load is kind of akin to the disappearing website at the Office of Information Awareness....Okay the link works again. The site was getting too much traffic. But, if the direct link fails again, try going through the homepage, and then select the Bush Sr. icon under the "channels" section. 1/10/02. )

Gulf War Environment
Do you remember the environmental effects of the Gulf War? Saddam took a scorched earth approach to Kuwait. Oil was dumped into the Gulf and oil wells were set on fire. Kuwait is still feeling the impacts of this devastation. Has Bush considered the externalities of a war with Iraq? I doubt it. This style of fighting will confront the world again, when we invade Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of people will be affected.
"What many recall as a short-lived conflict resulting in the liberation of Kuwait was an environmental disaster -- one from which the region and its people have yet to recover," Lash said in a written statement, adding: "The oil that did not burn in the fires traveled on the wind in the form of nearly invisible droplets resulting in an oil mist or fog that poisoned trees and grazing sheep, contaminated fresh water supplies, and found refuge in the lungs of people and animals throughout the Gulf."

"Today," Lasher said, "Saddam could deliberately create another catastrophe if attacked."

Kuwait's Burgan oil field, second largest in the world after Saudi Arabia's Ghawar field, was nearly destroyed in just months. The environmental impact is still being felt.

The fires, according to a report prepared for Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the allied commander in the Gulf War, consumed more than 4 million barrels of oil a day at their height.

According to the same report, within six days of the fires being set, a cloud of smoke stretched from Baghdad across the United Arab Emirates to Iran, and "black rain" fell as far away as Turkey, Syria and Afghanistan.

Thursday, January 2
Man of the Year?
Unbelievable, some people sure see the world differently than I do. This is from today's SF Gate:
The United Kingdom's Financial Times (registration required) has chosen George W. Bush as its Man of the Year for 2002, citing "the manner in which [Bush] has accumulated and exercised authority, reshaping the domestic political landscape, setting his stamp on the international agenda and pursuing U.S. interests around the world with America's allies, rather than despite them."

Pouring the praise on thick, the paper gushed, "Followers of the U.S. presidency have been searching the annals to find a president to match his achievements. In 2002, Mr. Bush came to be measured by the standards of Harry S. Truman."

Admitting that Bush "is not a master of detail," the Financial Times went on to claim that "outside the U.S., Mr. Bush's most significant achievement of the year has been to defend a course of moderation and multilateralism." With the Man of the Year citation came a prediction: Watch out, the paper said, for a Bush "dynasty" that is poised "to oust the royal Kennedys" from their place in the history books.
Oh my God. I am speechless.

Drugs in the Military
I don't mean the illegal kind per se. I'm referring to drugs given (prescribed?) to soldiers in order to boost their performance. A while back I had a post concerning the Rebuilding America's Defenses report (whose link is now inoperative) that had been prepared in 1992, under then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. I was appalled by the science fiction concept, promoted by the report, of a cyborg type soldier. The post was short so I have repeated again:
Stuff in the report on Rebuilding America's Defenses reads like a screenplay for a science fiction movie like the Terminator. It promotes a type of cyberborg soldier. The report was developed by then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney in 1992. On page 62 the report describes the U.S. soldier of the future:
"Future soldiers may operate in encapsulated, climate-controlled, powered fighting suits, laced with sensors, and boasting chameleon-like 'active' camouflage. 'Skin-patch' pharmaceuticals help regulate fears, focus concentration and enhance endurance and strength."
What are these people thinking? What country is this? The U.S.? Suddenly we have no constitutional rights. The military is to be comprised of soldiers who are drugged to be obedient, strong and fearless? Basically, people are no better or worse than robots in the view of this report. This shows a galling lack of respect for individuals. Apparently whatever helps the collective is okay. Especially when the collective is the ruling elite.

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

Another quote from page 14, makes you see that they were just waiting for an excuse to go after Saddam. Remember, the report was written in September 1992. The plan for years has been to force a "regime change". September 11th just gave Bush the cover needed to push for Saddam's ouster.
"While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."
Science fiction or not the Air Force is drugging its pilots.
The American pilots who mistakenly killed four Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were drugged-up "guinea pigs" at the time of the bombing, one of their defense lawyers said yesterday.

"This was an Air Force science project using AF pilots as guinea pigs," Charles Gittins, lawyer for Major Harry Schmidt, said in an e-mail interview with The Globe and Mail ...
Of course the military said that the drugs played no role in the pilots' errors. Also, the Pentagon points out that a pilot's use of the drugs is "voluntary". Just how voluntary can anything be in the military? I don't like the idea of drugging people in the military so that they can stay awake longer and the possibly of drugging then so that they won't question orders given to them is frightening.