Byrd's Brain

Thursday, February 27
Mister Rogers
Fred M. Rogers died today of stomach cancer. Farewell Fred. We'll always be in your neighborhood.
It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?...

It's a neighborly day in this beauty wood,
A neighborly day for a beauty.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?...

I've always wanted to have a neighbor just like you.
I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

So, let's make the most of this beautiful day.
Since we're together we might as well say:
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won't you be my neighbor?
Won't you please,
Won't you please?
Please won't you be my neighbor?

One of the first blogs that I read with any regularity and one of the first that I linked to, was Ray Garraud's weblog. Ray's career is advancing. He has been promoted and won't have time to blog. That is our loss and his gain. Ray's site is in my blogroll and it will remain there as long as Ray's site is up. Pay it a visit before it is gone and exists only in a google cache.

Reality TV
I am riding on the train. It is 7:33 in the morning on February 27th. I am traveling for work. I have meetings to attend and then will return home by train tonight. Outside the window the sky is blue, the hills are green and as we pass parts of San Francisco Bay the scenery is idyllic. All is peaceful and seemingly right with the world. At least with this small part of the world. Granted, we are on “orange alert”, but that’s surreal.

The threat of a terrorist attack is too indistinct for us to take precautions.

But the threat of war, no, the reality of war, is very real in many many parts of this planet.

If I were riding in a train in Iraq today I would have a radically different perspective of the world. I might be wondering if I would be alive in a month. I would be wondering if my family will survive the U.S. invasion.

The propaganda that we in the U.S. have heard over the last year about Iraq. The constant bombardment of news. The never-ending battle cry that the U.S. will invade Iraq. The endless calling up of reservists. The pictures of military personnel stationed throughout the Middle East. All of this has served its purpose. It has made millions of Americans numb. Millions are against the war, but the propaganda has made the possibility of an invasion of Iraq almost a foregone conclusion. The invasion feels like a fact. It will happen. It is almost as if people feel that it has to happen.

We’ve heard so much about it. Make it real for Christ sake. Or so we are intended to feel.

A war in Iraq won’t matter much to the daily lives of those in the U.S. People will continue on with their lives as if nothing has changed. Americans will watch (to the extent that we are allowed to see) the war on TV. It will be a new reality series. Forget "Survivor Amazon", this is "Survivor Iraq”.

The collective impact may be no more than if Americans had all gone to the local multiplex and seen the same movie. The explosions and body parts might even look less real than the cinematic version. That will be good for Bush. The horrors will seem not so horrible. When we get hungry, we’ll go into the kitchen to get something to eat. And then return with our chips and beer to watch more of the war. When we are tired we'll turn the TV off. And then forget about it until we turn the TV on again for the next installment, the next battle. Maybe, even the next war. 24 Hour news stations have commercialized, commodified war. We learned that during Bush Sr's Gulf War. This Gulf war may be brought to us by Nike and Pepsi.

We’ll watch this reality show whenever we get the chance. Around the water cooler at work, we’ll talk about the amazing sights of explosions and laser guided missiles. We’ll talk about the amazing technology that the U.S. is using. We’ll talk about how “neat” the explosions were. We might even mention, in passing, that innocent Iraqis were probably killed, but we won’t think much about them. We’ll focus more on the Americans that will die. Those Americans’ deaths will be just as abstract to us, but somehow they will mean more. After all they are on our team.

But folks, real people are going to die if the U.S. invades Iraq. People who have no say in the Iraqi government, people who are just trying to get by one day at a time. People like you and me. People who are old, people who are young, people with families are going to die. Whole families may be killed. Children will be killed by U.S. bombs.

In order to limit backlash in the U.S., BushCo. must use massive amounts of firepower in the opening salvos. These high-tech killings will cause destruction and death in Iraq in ways we can’t imagine, but that very firepower will limit the number of Americans actually engaged in battle. Thus BushCo must avoid the evening news spectacle of plane loads of Americans coming home in body bags.

This is the lesson learned from Vietnam. If you are going to fight, fight an all out war and -- at all costs -- avoid American deaths.

As the war unfolds remember that real people are being killed.

U.S. tax dollars at work.

I couldn’t post any entries Wednesday since bloggerpro was down. Hopefully new capital from Google is being used to get new servers in place. In any event, if you are reading this then pro is back up.

Tuesday, February 25
The March
Tomorrow every Senate office will receive a call every minute from a constituent, as they receive a simultaneous flood of faxes and e-mail. Hundreds of thousands of people from across the country will send the collective message: Don't Attack Iraq. Every Senate switchboard will be lit up throughout the day with that message -- a powerful reminder of the breadth and depth of opposition to a war in Iraq. And on that day, "antiwar rooms" in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles will highlight the day's progress for the national media, while local media can visit the "antiwar room" online to monitor this march throughout the day.

If you haven't already, sign up and join The Virtual March on Washington.

Monday, February 24
Peace after 40 years?
Everything isn't Iraq. So here is some good international news. Britain is finally helping to broker peace on Cyprus. This is a small deal for global politics, but the end of any dispute is a plus for the planet.
BRITAIN said yesterday that it was prepared to give up nearly half the territory covered by its two sovereign military bases in Cyprus to help to secure a peace deal between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot parts of the island.

The United Nations is pushing the two sides to accept a comprehensive settlement by the end of the month so that a reunited island can enter the European Union next year. [The Times]

Everyone agrees with me, you got that?
Criticize Bush. Get fired. It doesn't look like Alan Greenspan will be around for another term.
When he publicly undercut President Bush's proposals to stimulate the economy, Alan Greenspan opened the door to widespread speculation that his career as chairman of the Federal Reserve may be drawing to a close.

The Fed chief angered the White House and many Republicans on Capitol Hill when he testified recently that Bush's proposed tax cuts were premature and that they should be offset by tax increases or spending reductions to keep the deficit under control.
I wonder what stellar person Bush would pick to replace Greenspan? Some "yes" man, of course.

"Terrorist" is Bush Supporter
Check our Ruminate This, over there you'll learn that Sami Amin al-Arian, the University of South Florida professor who was arrested last week for being the US leader of a Mideast terror group:
"was also a Bush campaign supporter, and instrumental in turning out the Florida Muslim vote for the GOP in 2000. Damn cooperative terrorist, eh? Oh, yeah...we also learn that his son was a White House intern."
Very strange. Want more?

Friday, February 21
Oil Industry Ready to Take Over Iraq
Privatization of Iraqi oil fields? A State department panel is recommending just that. No suprise here.

Spot On!
Thank you, Senator Robert Byrd. Read it!

It's Oil, People
Among other reasons, Bush and Blair often spout off humanitarian concerns as one of the reasons for Invading Iraq. Don't believe it. The reason is oil and it always has been oil. Any other reason given is just smoke and mirrors.
In the debate over the pros and cons of a war in Iraq, the government's new concern for the interests of ordinary Iraqi people is very welcome. But it rings hollow when one considers that the UK, in its role as a member of the UN security council, could have done so much more to modify a sanctions regime that has brought enormous suffering to Iraqi children and their families over the past 12 years.

Despite the government's insistence that a war would be on humanitarian grounds, no funding has been forthcoming to support efforts to prepare for the potentially catastrophic humanitarian consequences of military action.

While the Ministry of Defence has been given a multi-billion pound warchest, the Department for International Development has not received a penny of extra cash, either for its own work or to pass on to humanitarian agencies trying to make contingency plans.

These agencies are deeply concerned that humanitarian preparations are woefully inadequate. They are calling on the government to make funds ensuring that the suffering of Iraqi civilians is minimised available immediately.

Tony Blair has presented us with a choice between war and the continuation of sanctions. There is little evidence of humanitarian concern in this. (Source: Mike Aaronson, the director-general of Save the Children, in the Guardian.)

The Start of U.S. Civil Rights
In 1819, a black slave known only as Winny did something unusual: She took her owners to a St. Louis court and argued she and her children should be free.

Winny contended that since she and her family had been taken to a state where slavery was illegal before coming to St. Louis, their continued slavery was illegal. A jury agreed and the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the verdict.

Winny's case is one of hundreds of lawsuits filed by freedom-seeking slaves now available in an online archive that offers a glimpse at what some believe is the genesis of America's civil rights movement.

The archive was unveiled Wednesday during a news conference at the Old Courthouse, where history's most significant slavery lawsuit - the Dred Scott case - initially was heard in
Winny's case established Missouri's judicial criteria for eligibility for freedom: If a slave owner took a slave to a free territory, like Illinois, and established residence there, the slave would be free.

The link to the archives is here. Unfortunately the site seems to be overwhelmed with requests and does not always load. If you are interested in looking at this history, I suggest that you bookmark the url and try it again over the weekend.

Thursday, February 20
It is more than duct tape
The color coded folks at the Department of Homeland Security bring us, Ready.Gov.

FCC Keeps Rules
A surprise. This is a surprise to me, Michael Powell didn't prevail entirely. The FCC kept in place rules that force carriers to provide rivals with low-priced access to their telephone networks. However:
In a complicated decision, the Federal Communications Commission approved new guidelines that give state regulators the power to decide what parts of local telephone networks must be leased at discounts. That dealt a blow to the dominant local telephone companies -- the Baby Bells, which wanted immediate relief from rules they contend cost them money and customers.

The FCC decision, however, did offer the Baby Bells a partial win. The agency ruled that local companies that install new fiber-optic cables for high-speed Internet access won't have to share those lines with rivals.

The Virtual March
The Virtual March on Washington is on February 26th. Register and then voice your opposition to a war with Iraq.

I have reinserted the comments function. It seems to be working again....

I had thought that it was obvious, but with increased traffic to this site more people are sending e-mail to me and some are confused about who I am or rather, who I am not. Therefore, on the left column I have added a link to an "About Byrd" page. In short, I am not the Senator from West Virginia.

Guns or Butter
One of the reasons that we are going to attack Iraq is because Iraq is a threat to its neighbors. Right? If that were the case, then why must the nations that border it be bribed in order to support the war? BushCo is offering Turkey $6 million in grants and $20 million in loans -- bribes -- in order to be allowed to use bases in Turkey to stage U.S. troops for the invasion into Northern Iraq. Turkey trusts the U.S. so little that whatever deal is ultimately worked out, Turkey is insisting that it be in writing. Turkey wants a document that it can waive in Bush's fave if BushCo reneges on its promises. Is there no honor among thieves?

This $26 million is a tiny portion of all of the money that BushCo is spending to station troops in the Middle East and bring war to Iraq. Moreover, what the US. is spending now may be dwarfed by what the U.S. will need to spend in order to rebuild Iraq. (Of course, that is assuming that an effort to rebuild Iraq will be undertaken seriously. After all, that would be the derided -- "nation building", wouldn't it? But I digress.) For decades, we have relied on fossil fuels such as oil, coal and in the case of Iraq, gas to meet our energy needs—and now we are facing the consequences. We are going to war to protect oil interests.

What if the U.S. spent the Iraq war money on something else? Let's use the $26 billion as an example.

What if it were used to decrease U.S. dependence on fossil fuels? This decreased dependence would allow the U.S. to begin to disentangle itself from the Middle East, which in turn would help alleviate some of the hatred directed toward the U.S. A laudable foreign policy goal. The money would also help to reduce nonrenewable energy consumption in the U.S. and alleviate global warming pressures. Laudable goals that would benefit generations to come.

The $26 billion could be used across the board to fund research into fuel and energy alternatives. In past years the Department of Energy's wind research budget, for example, has been a meager $34.8 million. That is a drop in the bucket when compared to the $26 billion being offered to Turkey. More specifically, the money could be used to fund wind turbines.

A 600 kilowatt hour wind turbine costs about $600,000 to install. Due to wind variations these produce about 75% of their capacity or approximately, 500,000 kilowatt hours annually. If the $26 billion were used just to buy wind turbines to generate electricity, the $26 billion would fund 4334 separate turbines. These would generate 2,167,000,000 kilowatt hours annually. This would provide electricity to meet the average annual needs of 333,385 homes in Los Angeles, for example.

In addition, if these same dollars were used to install residential solar panels they would have the added benefit of making homes partially self-sufficient. (Sorry big business. Not.) The average cost of a home 2000 watt solar panel system is $20,000. 2000 watts will should provide 3,131 kilowatt hours annually or about half of the electrical needs for a typical Los Angeles home. If the federal government used the $26 billion to buy solar panels (for 2000 watt systems), this money would pay for panels for 1,300,000 homes.

The effects of global warming not only include rising global temperatures, but an increase in floods, droughts, wildfires, intensified hurricanes, heat waves, the spread of infectious disease and species extinction. Our dependence on fossil fuels is changing the very same climate system that made life on Earth possible. Global warming is the direct result of the carbon dioxide, and other greenhouse gases, that are released when fossil fuels are burned. Despite the spoutings of BushCo it is a reality that we cannot ignore.

Wind and solar power offer us the alternative of clean, abundant energy. Money spent on alternative energy is an investment in the future. Spending money on an unnecessary war is worse than just washing the money down the drain. There is no investment and hundreds, if not thousands of people will die.

Unfortunately, my fellow U.S. boys and girls, we need to remember that BushCo is spending our money . We will pay for his follies both emotionally and financially.

Why is it always easier to buy guns than it is to buy butter? Butter isn't macho enough I guess.

Wednesday, February 19
High Speed Internet Access
Internet access is a subject of concern to anyone reading this blog. The rules by which high speed access is sold may change on Thursday. Michael Powell the head of the FCC, as you may recall, is the son of Colin Powell. Michael Powell is stridently moving to deregulate all that the FCC oversees. Powell is so devoted to the "free market" that Senator Fritz Hollings once said that Powell might be better suited to be "an executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce."

The battle on Thursday is between those commissioners who propose continuing to require the "Baby Bells" to give rivals access to high-speed lines, and to allow each state to determine how much deregulation is appropriate. Powell favors the position of the Baby Bells. He wants to discontinue this access requirement. Somehow by limiting the number of players in the field Powell continues to believe that that leads to increased competition. What it really leads to is increased revenue for the companies that remain in the industry and fewer choices for consumers. Read this for the whole story.

No surpise here
Bush is unswayed by anti-war protestors. (id/password: rbyrd.)

Tuesday, February 18
Will the first bomb to hit Iraq be an eBomb?

A Googlized gif for Blogger.

On the eve of its invasion of Iraq BushCo has begun to pay attention to the risks and consequences of the war.
Administration officials list these among their concerns:

¶A muddy transition of power. Most of the planning has called for the swift removal of Mr. Hussein and his top aides. While a coup or exile might preclude the need for military action, they could create a chaotic situation in which Mr. Hussein is gone but the United States is not in control. Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, has begun to talk about how it will not be enough to remove Mr. Hussein, saying, "We must also get rid of Saddam-ism." Some, especially at the Pentagon, ask if, in the event of a coup or exile, the United States military might have to go into Iraq anyway to assure that the succession of power leaves in place a government that would give up all weapons of mass destruction.

¶Chaos after Mr. Hussein is gone. Several task forces on Iraq have examined what some call the "score-settling problem," the specter of rivalries and feuds that have been bottled up for decades spinning out of control. Most have concluded that one result may be an American military occupation likely to be longer than the 18 months that Ms. Rice has talked about. Douglas J. Feith, the undersecretary of defense for policy, noted in Senate testimony last week that getting at the stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction would be a "complex, dangerous and expensive task."

¶Events outside Iraq. North Korea is the first concern here, because a crisis there could require military resources tied up in the Middle East. An equal concern is terrorism here or in Europe, set off by Al Qaeda or others. One official noted recently that it might be impossible to know if an act of terror was set off by agents of Iraq or simply by terrorists taking advantage of the Iraq invasion.

¶Securing the oil fields. It is assumed that Mr. Hussein would try to destroy the oil infrastructure. The only question is how thorough a job he would do. Blowing up the above-ground pumping stations, while troublesome, would not be that hard to fix. Sinking explosives deep underground, where they damage the drilling infrastructure, could be far more destructive.
They have even begun to realize that this war might not be the 3 day event they have advertised.
If there is one thing that haunts administration planners it is the thought of a protracted conflict, which could lead to increased casualties. "How long will this go on?" one senior administration official asked. "Three days, three weeks, three months, three years?" Even some of this official's aides winced as they contemplated the last time frame on that list. NYTimes (id/password: rbyrd.)
These realities won't stop BushCo's drive to war, but finally, with these contingencies in mind, the reality of a war with Iraq has dawned on them.

Monday, February 17
Better Service? More Reliability?
We can hope so. Google just bought Blogger, the ISP for this site. Hopefully the reliability will improve, but I wonder if Google will have a bias for "blogspot" blogs. That would not be a good thing for Google. Read about it here and from Pyra/Blogger people here and here.

Sunday, February 16
The Season of Stupidity?
Check out Molly Ivans, 'nuf said.

Saturday, February 15
Anti War Protests
As you know, around the world today, millions protested George and Tony's war against Iraq. Blair may listen, but we know that BushCo doesn't give a damn what anyone thinks. For coverage of the protests there is CNN, of course. But for something different, check out an Aussie view, a British view, and a view from the Middle East.

The Comments function of this site has been removed. It was hanging up the loading of the site. I don't know if I will replace "Haloscan" or use the same software in the future, but for now there is no comment function. If you have something to say send me an e-mail!

Friday, February 14
GAO Drops Suit
Chalk another one up to the Bush cabal and consider it another strike at open government and another bone tossed to Bush's friends at the former Enron.

The GAO caved in to Congressional Republican pressure and decided not to appeal its action to get VP Cheney to disclose which industry officials he met with as part of his energy task force. Now we may never know who crafted the administration's energy policy.
..the General Accounting Office, acting at the request of two senior Democrats in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives, sought information about Vice President Cheney's energy task force. The information the requests sought related, among other topics, to possible contacts between Enron and the task force.
Cheney moved to dismiss the suit on various grounds. Then, on December 9, 2002, federal district judge John D. Bates granted the motion - holding that GAO lacked standing to sue Vice President Dick Cheney for information.
The GAO announced on February 9th, the last day to file, that it would not appeal Judge Bates' decision.

John Dean, yes that John Dean, has an excellent discussion of this case and why he finds the GAO's actions "mind-boggling".

A lot can happen while we are distracted with a war against Iraq.

I seem to be full of questions today. Full of something anyway.

Back to duct tape. If biological or chemical agents have been dropped from the sky above, how much time does one really have to seal a room in a house with plastic and duct tape? Probably not enough time. So is all of this information about preparations that people in the U.S. need to take intended to placate us or scare us or both? Wouldn't we be better off, if we are exposed, to see friends and family rather than waste away in seclusion in a tomb of our own making?

We have intercepted messages and know that attacks are being planned in the U.S. and the Arabian (id/password: rbyrd) peninsula, but we don't know the people involved and we don't know the stage of planning for either event. How can we know so much and know so little?

(We know so much and know so little because the informant made up the information! No one bothered to verify the information before putting the U.S. on alert! And as of today we are still on Orange alert becasue no one has bothered to change the status. [Added 2/18/03])

Thursday, February 13
This is pathetic. According to her site she has actually collected most of the money that she needs! (This link was found via Rittenhouse, who credits Eschaton and Back to Iraq 2.0. Maybe I should add links for Amazon and Paypal to Byrd's Brain....

Judicial Politics
Tom Spencer has an excellent breakdown and discussion of how Democrats and Republicans have handled judicial nominees when they were the party in control in the Senate. Not surprisingly the Democrats were more fair. Maybe they were just stupid. They failed to recognize that there is a mini civil war festering beneath the surface in the U.S.

The proper use of duct tape.

Privatizing our Forests
There is a significant amount of policy in spending bills. These are a way to change policy under the guise of budgetary constraints. I discussed the insertion of language to allow drilling in ANWR earlier this week. Now I have learned that the GOPers want to privatize our national forests.
The timber industry could take a much greater role in managing millions of acres of national forests in California and across the West under a little-noticed provision added at the last minute to Congress' huge domestic spending bill.

The proposal would let the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management award an unlimited number of "stewardship contracts" -- essentially paying logging companies trees for maintaining trails or thinning forests to reduce the risk of wildfire.

Critics say the plan could open up wide swaths of public land to heavier logging. California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer estimated it could affect as much as half the state's 20 million acres of national forests.

"This (plan) could signal the beginning of the end of California forests," Boxer said in a letter released Wednesday.

The provision was attached by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, to the $400 billion spending bill as representatives and senators negotiated about how much money would go to virtually every federal government activity except for defense.

If you want to know what the color coded alerts really mean, check out Mark Fiore's latest.

Wednesday, February 12
Al Qaeda Audio Tape

Let me get this straight. For over a year the Bush administration has begged the media not to run any Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda tapes. The stated reason was that they might contain hidden messages that would activate sleeper cells. For the most part the media complied.

Then yesterday Colin Powell discusses the latest Al Qaeda tape during a Congressional hearing? This discussion was prior to the airing of the tape. Hours later Al Jazeera plays the tape. Then almost immediately Fox and then CNN air the tape. BushCo didn't complain. What happened to fears about activating sleeper cells?

Did you notice that this time there were no experts debating the authenticity of the tape? It was Osama bin Laden. No doubt. In the past there was debate about whether it really was bin Laden's voice and whether the tapes were doctored. No such debate this tme around. Curious.

BushCo needed this tape. Osama helps provide a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq. (The link may be weak, in support of the people of Iraq and against the Great Satan, but as we have seen this link has been the emphasis.) This tape had to be from Osama bin Laden, or it wouldn't mean that much, so there was no debate about its authenticity. We are told that Osama is clearly linked to Iraq. That is enough. Invading Iraq is now clearly an effort in the war on terror.

What of the coded messages to sleeper cells? If there was a fear of hidden messges in the past, then why aren't there fears with this tape? The tape itself was too important for BushCo. It had to be released for BushCo war purposes.

Either they lied about the danger of hidden messages or there may have been hidden messges and BushCo didn't care. If there were hidden messages and sleeper cells are activated and people die, isn't this an impeachable offense?

Tuesday, February 11
If you have already read the entry below, I apologize for the bad links. What a difference a slash can make. The links have been fixed.

If nothing else, definitely check out the photographs of ANWR. They give meaning to the fight to prevent drilling.

........the distant region of the coastal plain where the caribou are born is revered as
Vadzaih Googii Vi Dehk'it Gwanlii—roughly, the Sacred Place Where Life Begins
—a near-mythic area that few Gwich'in have ever seen.......

Monday, February 10
Bush's proposed 2004 fiscal year budget, calls for oil exploration and drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. If adopted by Congress, the budget would open ANWR to drilling and call for the leasing of tracts to oil companies beginning in 2005.

Bush has opened the door for ANWR drilling to be enacted in budget reconciliation legislation by including revenue assumptions from ANWR drilling in the budget. The proposed budget calls for the leasing of between 400,000 and 600,000 acres in the so-called 1002 section of the Refuge. This is the 1.5 million-acre coastal plain around which the drilling debate has centered. Bush's budget anticipates that $2.4 billion in revenues will be generated by the first round of lease sales in 2005.

The move is clearly intended to help Republicans in the Senate dodge an anticipated Democratic filibuster because budget resolutions, by Senate rule, can't be filibustered. Drilling supporters would need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster while just 50 votes plus Vice-President Dick Cheney's tie-breaker would be enough to pass ANWR drilling in the GOP-controlled Senate as a budget provision.

Six Republicans voted against drilling in ANWR last time this was in the Senate. 5 Democrats voted in favor of drilling. If this makes it intact to the Congress in March it is likely to pass. Pray for the Gwich'in and the caribou.

I recommend that you read Peter Matthiessen's excellent article about the people, the animals and the environment of ANWR. It puts a face on this beautiful place. (The article is from the February issue of Outside.)

Also, be sure to check out Subhankar Banerjee's superb photographs of ANWR. You can access the photo gallery here. Here is a sample...

It is amazing how one moment in time can change one's perceptions. As soon as my daughter, my first child, was born I knew that everything in the world had changed for me. From that moment forward I began to view everything not as an individual and how something affected me, but as a father and how it affects my daughter and my son.

Airplane Sounds
The flight paths for airplanes approaching and taking off from the nearby airport have changed due to the weather. This means that at home we hear airplanes at least every hour now. We never heard them before. Sometimes the planes fly relatively low overhead. The planes can almost sound ominous. I never would have thought that years ago. Ever since September 11th airplanes sound different. Do they sound different to all Americans? To everyone?

Tom Spencer has the latest on the toxins factory that wasn't.

From Ray Garraud we find this interesting analysis by Clay Shirky of the dynamics of and power among weblogs.
In systems where many people are free to choose between many options, a small subset of the whole will get a disproportionate amount of traffic (or attention, or income), even if no members of the system actively work towards such an outcome. This has nothing to do with moral weakness, selling out, or any other psychological explanation. The very act of choosing, spread widely enough and freely enough, creates a power law distribution.

After Iraq, Iran? Ruminate This thinks so.

Sunday, February 9
Interesting Times has the word on a "wag the dog" type of story. (Read about it here and here.) The terrorist training camp -- that Powell spoke of -- in Iraq that had been producing toxins and that the U.S. had known about for months isn't. Maybe it was a bakery. Toxic sticky buns perhaps.

Saturday, February 8
Mark Twain's, The War Prayer
Sunday morning came -- next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams -- visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation

God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!

Then came the "long" prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory --

An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher's side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled minister did -- and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. the whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory--must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

After a pause: "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!"

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said. .
This is Mark Twain's The War Prayer. It was written in response to the Philippine-American War of 1899-1902, which Twain opposed. It can be located throughout the internet, including here and here.

Friday, February 7
Wag The Dog
Are we being prepared for an incident that will turn public opinion and increase support for a war with Iraq? Remember that a terrorist attack at this time benefits Bush because it will help his Iraq campaign. The terror threat alert level has been raised from yellow to orange. The risk of a terrorist threat is now "high". Remember the Gulf of Tonkin.

Be suspicious. Be very suspicious if something happens in the near future.

God Forbid
A sequel to the Patriot Act? Apparently the first Act didn't give Commandant Ashcroft the ufettered authority that he craves. A draft of Patrot Act II is in circulation. Go to Atrios and Skimble for information on this and the related Bill Moyers' show, and visit Tom Tomorrow for more information, such as:
Section 501, “Expatriation of Terrorists”: This provision, the drafters say, would establish that an American citizen could be expatriated “if, with the intent to relinquish his nationality, he becomes a member of, or provides material support to, a group that the United Stated has designated as a ‘terrorist organization’.” But whereas a citizen formerly had to state his intent to relinquish his citizenship, the new law affirms that his intent can be “inferred from conduct.” Thus, engaging in the lawful activities of a group designated as a “terrorist organization” by the Attorney General could be presumptive grounds for expatriation.
This is all quite frightening indeed. If someone had told me three years ago that these things would be happening today, I would have laughed. It doesn't seem possible that our civil rights have been eroded so quickly and easily. It really doesn't seem possible that BushCo wants to go even further.

Earlier today I said that the election couldn't come soon enough for me. It is a tiny bit closer now, thank God. Can we all hold out until then? I don't know.

Mark Murford calls it as he sees them. In his latest he pulls together much of what I have been saying over the past months. He has comments on Iraq, North Korea, Bush's environmental plan and the economy. He says it well. Check out his latest. Read the whole column. Here is a taste:
And we knew about the gassing of the Kurds all along, as it was happening, and we did nothing to stop it -- in fact, we were more than happy to help Saddam gas all the Iranians he could during the Iran-Iraq war, employing many of the same chemical agents the United States (via its key Iraq liaison at the time -- hi, Mr. Rumsfeld!) supplied to him. What, us? Hypocrites? Never.

The sad fact remains, the United States is, right now, as you read this, acting very much exactly like the arrogant and thuggish hypercapitalist rogue nation all these hate-filled countries claim we are. Oh, and that goes for much of the European Union too. In greater Europe, and beyond, George W. Bush is far scarier than Saddam could ever be. 9/11 sympathy? Not anymore.
The war on Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks are completely separate issues, forcibly joined in the minds of fear-drunk Americans (and huge numbers of media lapdogs) by an incessant barrage of White House spin and thin-lipped Cheney-speak.

Do you get it? Once more, with feeling: bin Laden/al Qaeda = Sept. 11 and terrorism. Saddam/Iraq = oil and power. Clear? But wait, Saddam is reportedly sympathetic to terrorists, you might argue, parroting exactly what the White House has spun your way. Right. So are roughly 153 other Third World nations and sociopathic tyrants, many of whom will hate us even more once we start bombing.

Another reminder: The majority of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudis and Egyptians. No Iraqis at all. Is it interesting to note how we aren't exactly eager to drop $10 billion worth of deadly ordnance on downtown Riyadh? Of course it's not. Extremely sensitive, extremely orgiastic, extremely complicated power relations having to do with billions in oil and money and U.S. corporate investment, is why.

No such complications with Iraq. Ain't no McDonald's in Baghdad, honey. We're about to bomb the living hell out of Iraq for the oil and the expansion of our power base. Simple.

North Korea
So while Bush has been threatening Iraq with annihilation, North Korea has been building up its military capabilities and turning on a reactor. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it, when it comes to the big issue, this administration can't multitask. They can only focus on one project at a time. That is not a good thing. It is especially not troubling when the focus is on trumped on reasons for attacking Iraq. Bush is like the bully in the playground. He can pick on Iraq because it doesn't have much of a military. He tried to pick on North Korea by proclaiming to the world that North Korea had violated treaties. Well, as we know North Korea called his bluff and has ramped up its war machine.

Now, in case you've missed it, North Korea has adopted the Bush administration policy of "preemptive strikes". North Korea warned that it will launch a "total war" if the United States dared to attack its nuclear complex. The Bush bullies have resorted to that playground standby -- name calling. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld charged that North Korea is ruled by "a terrorist regime". Finally, North Korea has said that a preemptive strike by it might be necessary.
it would be "foolish for the United States to think that we sit idle with folded arms to wait until it gives orders" to initiate the attack.
Whatever happened to diplomacy? How is it that in little more than two years Bush has presided over attacks on U.S. territory, has failed to get public enemy number one --Osama, has presided over a freefalling economy, has lowered the esteem of the U.S. in the eyes of the world with its warmongering vis a vis Iraq and has gotten North Korea to threaten its neighbors with a nuclear war. This is quite a record. This administration will be remembered, but not for anything good. I just hope that the memories don't include any more horrific catastrophes. When is the next election? It can't be soon enough for me or the rest of the world.

Thursday, February 6
Specious Evidence
Paul de Rooij at Counterpunch in an article today, reminds us of the "throwing babies out of incubators" story that was concocted in order to garner public support for the first Gulf War. The case for war is much more difficult to make now. What horrible stories will they concoct in order to raise public support? We certainly haven't heard all of the fabrications yet.

Can we expect another Gulf of Tonkin?

UK War Dossier was a Sham
Large parts of the British government's latest report on Iraq - allegedly based on "intelligence material" - were taken from published academic articles, some of them several years old. Colin Powell, in his speech to the UN Security Council, cited this dossier, entitled "Iraq - its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation" said: "I would call my colleagues' attention to the fine paper that the United Kingdom distributed... which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities." The fine paper was cobbled together from public sources.
four of the report's 19 pages had been copied - with only minor editing and a few insertions - from the internet version of an article by Ibrahim al-Marashi which appeared in the Middle East Review of International Affairs last September.
The content of six more pages relies heavily on articles by Sean Boyne and Ken Gause that appeared in Jane's Intelligence Review in 1997 and last November. None of these sources is acknowledged.

The document, as posted on Downing Street's website at the end of January, also acci dentally named four Whitehall officials who had worked on it: P Hamill, J Pratt, A Blackshaw and M Khan. It was reposted on February 3 with the first three names deleted.

"Apart from passing this off as the work of its intelligence services," Dr Rangwala said, "it indicates that the UK really does not have any independent sources of information on Iraq's internal policies. It just draws upon publicly available data."

I'll be out of town again, for the rest of day. My train leaves in an hour.

terrorist threat increased
This isn't news. The feds are either slow on the uptake or the Bushies have deceided to prepare the public for the ramifications of a war with Iraq. See we attack Iraq and the teror increases, therefore Saddam must have been aligned with the terrorists, right? CNN has this...
the threat of a terrorist attack on U.S. soil is at a higher level than in previous months because of the possibility of impending military action against Iraq, U.S. counterterrorism officials told CNN on Wednesday.

"The threat level is definitely up. Our guys have been told to act as if we have already bombed Iraq," one senior counterterrorism official told CNN.

Government officials said they are concerned that al Qaeda, Iraqi agents or individuals could launch an attack coinciding with a U.S. strike against Iraq.
Bush wants to get Saddam. Unfortunately for U.S. citizens and Iraqis that means he will do anything and suffer any fatalities to acheive his goals: Saddam and oil. I can't help but think about this stuff whenever I am behind the wheel of my car. If the U.S. were less dependent on oil would people die this month? Would terrorists hate us so? Would Bush care as much about Sadddam? Why couldn't the U.S. have stuck with the energy policies of the Carter administration? We have been on the wrong path for decades and this is where it has led those of us in the U.S. A corporate president hell bent on war.

Wednesday, February 5
Out of Town
It is such a pain when work interferes with this. I will be out of town on Wednesday and Thursday and not near a computer, except maybe at night, so blogging will be on hiatus until I return.

Tuesday, February 4
Budget Graph
As Interesting Times says in the caption with this graph -- It is worth a thousand words. Bush is leading the economy into a dark sub-basement. Wait, "leading" is the worng term. Bush doesn't lead. Bush is sitting by as the economy dives into the sub-basement.

something to brag about?
I didn't hear Bush's State of the Union speech. I didn't read all of the speech either. I didn't have the stomach for it. But now I wish that I had seen the speech. Tom Spencer has an excerpt from this Richard Reeves' column in which the speech is discussed. In the SOTU Bush implied that the U.S. has assassinated people as a part of the war on terrorism. We know of at least one such incident. The unmanned CIA Predator missile that blew up the car with "terrorists", including one American, in it. That was news just before the November elections. But there have likely been more. Reeves says that the President was smirking while delivering the following lines:
"To date we have arrested, or otherwise dealt with, many key commanders of al-Qaida. ... All told, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries. Many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way, they are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies."
The death of anyone, however it was caused, is not something to smirk about. If Bush smirked he behaved like a child. He is the President of the U.S. (like it or not) and bragging about assassinations is unbecoming to the office, or any public office for that matter. Assassination is a weapon of the weak.

Every day in many ways he continues to lower the esteem of the United States.

What Bush is Costing the U.S.
Find out what Bush and his various policies cost each U.S. citizen in real dollars. Stop by CounterPunch and read Edward J. Steel's latest, Support War? That'll Be $2,500, Please. Here are highlights:
The US population totals 290 million. Though there are 98 million taxpayers, there are 80 million households. Each household consists of 3.63 people. The figures quoted above are per household, a more realistic way of looking at things, I think, since my thirteen-year-old girl simply doesn't generate much in the way of tax revenue.
Simply saying the war on Iraq will cost $200 billion has no impact on any but the most inveterate policy wonk. It's really tough to relate to a billion, you see.
Of course, the $17,500 you will spend knocking down Iraq and then picking it back up doesn't include the cost of human suffering, either. What is your son worth to you, if he is over there right now? What about all the Iraqis about to die?

Monday, February 3
Subject Area Archives
I've added a page with archives on the topics that I write about the most. At this time the Byrd's Brain: Subject Area Archives include postings related to privacy, parenthood and the planet. The link to this archive page is on the left, just below the e-mail link and above the blogroll.

Stroll on over and peruse the new archives!

Blood Contamination
It has to make you wonder how it could happen. Blood transfusions and handling of plasma isn't something new. There are standards and procedures in place, yet blood has been contaminated -- with an unknown substance -- first in Atlanta and now in the Nashville area. 70% of the Nashville's region's blood supply has been affected. This is a region that includes hospitals in parts of Kentucky, Illinois and Tennessee. The tainted blood is in bags made by the same manufacturer, so maybe the bags were contaminated.

Whatever the source, how could this have happened? What if someone intentionally wanted to contaminate the blood supply? What if they worked for the bag manufacturer and introduced something into the bags that wasn't easily detectable and certainly wasn't wasn't visible to the eye? These bags have a white fat like substance floating in them. In many cases the contamination was easy to detect. Is this yet another warning about how little security we really have? Or am I just paranoid?
Blood in the Nashville region was quarantined yesterday after a mysterious white fatty substance was found in three samples of donated blood, the Red Cross said. The discovery came two days after 110 units containing the substance were found in Atlanta.

No harmful effects on patients have been reported.

The substance has not been identified. It is described as floating in sealed blood bags either invisibly in tiny particles or in pea-size globs.

"It doesn't appear to be human in origin," said Dr. Christopher D. Hillyer, an Emory University professor who works with the Red Cross. There have been no reports of patients receiving the tainted blood, and officials said they had no idea what would happen if they did.

The Nashville quarantine affects hospitals in parts of Kentucky and Illinois as well as Tennessee, shelving about 70 percent of the region's Red Cross blood supply, said Ryland Dodge, a spokesman. Hospitals were being notified last night.

On Friday, the Red Cross quarantined thousands of units of blood after the 110 units in Atlanta, out of about 4,000 tested, were found to contain the substance.

In all the cases, the blood was in plastic bags manufactured by the Baxter Healthcare Corporation, a subsidiary of Baxter International Inc. A spokesman for the company could not be reached yesterday. On Friday, a spokeswoman for Baxter Healthcare, based in Deerfield, Ill., said the company had done its own preliminary tests on four samples and found nothing wrong with the bags.

The Red Cross is replacing the quarantined blood with blood from elsewhere in the country, Mr. Dodge said. Likewise, 2,000 units were shipped to Atlanta after Friday's discovery.
NYTimes (id/password: rbyrd.)