Byrd's Brain

Wednesday, April 30
Privacy
 
Seeing the Forest has seen seen the forest for the trees here --- Republicans have a problem with your privacy!

Patriot Raid
 
Has the U.S. become Iraq? The Patriot Act in action sure makes me wonder. A dinner out becomes the subject of a raid.

I found this link via Atrios.

Footprint
 


What is your footprint? Find out.



Tuesday, April 29
NY Times
 
The New York Times archives are now fee based, after 7 days. Consequently, any links from this site to NYTimes articles that are older than seven days are guaranteed not to work. Therefore, in the future, when referring to any NY Times material I will continue to link to the NY Times, but I will consciously attempt to copy the most relevant text to this site so that it is available in the Byrd's Brain archives.

State of Denial
 
The Sacramento Bee had an excellent special environmental section in the Sunday paper, this past weekend. The title, "State of Denial", refers to the fact that California has some of the nation's toughest environmental laws, but that its consumption patterns have devastating impacts throughout the world. I will mention parts of the special section here, but you really should read the entire expose.

The starting point for the articles is the environmental footprint that I have mentioned at least twice before on this site. If you haven't already, please go here and find out how many acres it takes to support your lifestyle. It takes 14 acres to support my lifestyle. I was disappointed that the number was so high. However, the average American needs 24 acres to support them! That is the second highest requirement of any nation. Only the Untied Arab Emirates exceeded that with 25 acres per person.

The articles discuss the environmental impacts of oil drilling in Ecuador, logging in the Boreal forests in Canada and overfishing the seas.

On oil drilling in Ecuador:
In Ecuador, the hardest-hit area is a riot of vegetation and swift-moving streams east of the Andes: the Ecuadorean Amazon. Flanked by Colombia to the north and Peru to the south and east, Ecuador's Amazon is surprisingly rich in petroleum. It also is part of a forest ecosystem second in size only to the boreal forest, which circles the globe across Canada, Alaska, Russia and Scandinavia.

Unlike the austere boreal, South America's fabled tropical Amazon forest abounds in biological diversity. And few parts are as lively as Ecuador's portion, home to an estimated 8,000 to 12,000 species of plants - or up to 5 percent of all plant species on Earth - and an impressive complement of wildlife, from pink fresh.water dolphins to transparent "glass frogs" to the largest raptor on Earth, the harpy eagle.

But since 1972, when the first oil well was tapped, petroleum has siphoned off much of its glory. Tracts of forest that teemed with monkeys, macaws and semi-nomadic tribes now are tattered by roads, rigs and colonist settlements. Tea-colored streams that shimmered with silvery fish now float petroleum scum.
...
Near refineries and oil fields in the Amazon, even the rain reeks of petroleum. "It smells similar to the exhaust from a car," said Serbio Escobar, who farms near the Colombian border. His wife, Margarita Campoverde de Escobar, added: "Sometimes, when we collect rainwater in pots, the water is black."
....
"We sleep in terror here," said Lucia Castillo, whose brother was burned to death when a pipeline break sent waves of fire through the coastal community of Esmeraldas in 1998. As flames roared down oil-soaked streets, devouring cars and homes, frantic parents put their children in wooden canoes and pushed them into the Esmeraldas River.

Then they watched in horror as fire engulfed the river - and the children.
Picture that next time you fill your car's -- or SUV's -- gas tank. How come we never heard about this river of fire? Did the media think that this news would disturb us? It disturbs me. Where were the embedded reporters?
• Studies point to a link between oil extraction and skin rashes, miscarriages, even cancer. "The level of petroleum in the rivers, on which local residents depend, is 200 to 300 times higher than the limits set for human consumption," said Miguel San Sebastian, an Ecuadorean physician and co-author of the most recent study of petroleum's impact on the health of Ecuador's people.

• Oil spills and other ecological calamities are routine. The 300-mile trans-Ecuadorean pipeline has suffered more than 60 major ruptures since 1972, spilling 614,000 barrels of oil - more than two Exxon Valdez tankers' worth. By contrast, the 800-mile trans-Alaskan pipeline, which came on line in 1977 and carries more than twice as much oil, has spilled just 85,000 barrels.
...
Few oil benefits, though, seep back to the Amazon. Last year, the sale of crude oil brought Ecuador about $2 billion. Yet only 3 percent of Ecuador's national budget is routed to its jungle provinces, according to the Inter Press Service news agency, even though those provinces make up 50 percent of its land area. Some of Ecuador's poorest communities are in the shadow of the oil fields.

"Oil is the Midas myth," said Terry Lynn Karl, the former director of Stanford's Center for Latin American Studies. "It creates the expectation that you will be rich. But the end result is you have more poverty, more inequality and more conflict." Sac Bee

On logging in the Boreal:
[Canada is a]nation where up to 90 percent is harvested through clear-cutting - the controversial mowing down of entire stands of forest - and where two-thirds of the cutting occurs in old-growth stands. And it is buying wood from a country where logging is moving more deeply into one of the planet's most important ecosystems: the boreal forest.

Circling the globe like a jade and emerald crown, the boreal, named for Boreas, the Greek god of the north wind, is home to a mythic array of wildlife, including timber wolves, woodland caribou and - in Russia - Siberian tigers. It also plays a critical role in regulating the Earth's climate, helping protect it from global warming.
...
In 2001, a record 18.5 billion board feet of Canadian softwood lumber was imported to the United States - enough two-by-fours, plywood, doorjambs, siding and other products to build a city the size of San Diego.

Lots of Canadian paper was shipped south, too: 26.8 billion pounds, to be precise. That is roughly equal to the weight of every man, woman and child in America. Most arrived in two forms: newsprint (13.2 billion pounds) and printing and writing paper (9.4 billion pounds).
...
Fifteen hundred miles east, Steve Fobister - a former grand chief of the Ojibwa nation - kicks the dust in a gaping clear-cut in Ontario. Trees there also supply an Abitibi mill vital to U.S. newspapers, including the Minneapolis Star-Tribune - owned by The Bee's parent company, The McClatchy Co.

Staring at a moonscape of stumps and bare ground stretching for more than 10 square miles, Fobister said: "This is selfish. This is devastation."

Nearby, someone has spray-painted the word "PROPAGANDA" across a timber company sign about reforestation.

That someone, Fobister said, is him.

"You can't even hear a bird in a clear-cut. You can't even find an insect," he said. "Everything is dead." Sac Bee
And fortunatley, not all the news is gloomy...On Harvesting the Sea:
A decade ago, hunger for North Atlantic cod - its fillets white and flaky like rockfish - helped propel one of the most dramatic episodes of overfishing ever off the coasts of Newfoundland and New England. Some fear the same kind of market forces could one day deplete British Columbia's rockfish.
...
In British Columbia, that system is a federal management plan that is turning commercial fishermen into conservationists by giving them an ownership stake in the fish of the sea.

With legal title to an average of 610,000 pounds of rockfish a year, trawlers no longer race to sea in a competitive dash for fish. They work at their own pace, dragging their nets when prices are good. Most fish less - and catch less - but earn more.

Like property owners, they now take a keen interest in the value of their asset, including its resale value. The more productive rockfish stocks are, the more valuable a trawler's ownership stake - or quota - in them becomes. Lately, some trawlers have retired from the fleet and sold their quota to other fishermen for about $1.90 a pound, becoming millionaires.

While not flawless, Canada's 6-year-old quota system has made trawling less wasteful.
...But with some rockfish populations in decline, pressure from environmental groups on the rise and a 1996 federal law on the books requiring that "overfished" stocks be rebuilt, the fishery management council has steadily whittled those limits lower.

The result: a desperate, impoverished fleet and a whole lot of wasted fish.

"You are forced to catch what you can while you can because of the uncertainty of not being able to fish tomorrow," said Vought, the Eureka trawler.

Last year, while making a tow for lingcod near Eureka, Vought's crew caught something unexpected: 2,500 pounds of canary rockfish, a delicious, valuable species known to live to be at least 84 years old. Trouble is, Vought was already near his two-month limit for canaries.

To avoid a federal fine, the crew shoveled 2,000 pounds of canary rockfish back into the sea. Not one survived, because rockfish's air bladders burst in the rapid pressure change of their forced journey to the surface.

"In order to sell $800 worth of fish, we actually threw away $1,100 worth," Vought said. "In what world does that make sense?"

When Canadian trawler Sigmund found himself in a similar predicament not long ago, not one fish was wasted. He had hauled in 35,000 pounds of silver-gray rockfish, 20,000 of which was over his legal quota.

Sigmund called another trawler who had not yet caught his annual quota of silver-grays, and traded for 20,000 additional pounds of quota. "I turned my by-catch into catch," Sigmund said. "That's what the quota system is all about." Sac Bee

For a map of the world's comparative uses of resources go here -- global use of resources.bmp

Monday, April 28
He's Smarter than Bush
 
and much much younger.

13-year-old Gregory Robert Smith will receive his bachelor's degree in mathematics May 31 from Randolph-Macon College, a private Methodist school 15 miles north of Richmond Virginia. (When I went to college in Virginia, this was a Women's college, I guess that that has changed.) Greg, who was elected Phi Beta Kappa, is graduating cum laude. Greg travels the world working for education and peace.
"When I was very young," Greg says in one videotaped speech, drawing laughter from the crowd of about 11,000. He waits for silence and begins again: "When I was very young and witnessed the video accounts of children suffering from disease or malnutrition, separated from their families or subjected to violence, I knew I had to act. I was just 7 years old then, but I was certain that there must be a way that I could make a difference."

Greg continues to advocate for children and peace, which he said go hand-in-hand.

"The first step to peace is education. That's one reason I'm working so hard," Greg said.
BushCo could learn a lot from this kid.

Sutton
 
Another Ideologue for the Courts. According to this (password/id:"rbyrd") New York Times editorial, it seems likely that Jeffrey Sutton, a nominee to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati, will be confirmed by the Senate this week. He fits the Bush administration's plan for a right wing ideological takeover of the courts. When will the Democrats wake up? When you see everything that you believe in being destroyed shouldn't you fight for it? This should be the Senate of filibusters. The replicants certainly had no problems delaying democratic nominees.

Lettuce Advisory
 
It never stops. New health risks from man made pollutants emerge almost daily. Now pregnant women in the U.S. are being advised to be cautious about winter lettuce -- lettuce grown from November to March. Most of that lettuce is grown in California's Imperial County and Arizona's Yuba County. The irrigation water for this produce comes from the Colorado river. Sadly, the Colorado River has long been suspected of being contaminated by underground plumes of perchlorate from industrial and military sites. Perchlorate is the explosive ingredient in rocket fuel. An environmental group has tested samples of this lettuce in and found that it contained potentially high levels of perchlorate. The chemical can disrupt activity of the thyroid gland, which in a pregnant woman could upset delicate hormone levels crucial for normal development of the fetus. In addition, exposure in children could theoretically cause deficits in brain function and motor skills. It isn't even safe to be a vegetarian these days. An organic label on the lettuce wouldn't save anybody from perchlorate in the irrigation water. Clearly, the only solution is to reduce our use of toxics and to actively clean up known contaminations. These both are two things that BushCo is loathe to do. They both cost industry money. And we can't do that can we? Maybe the corporations will use the money from additional tax breaks to help clean up the environment. Why do I doubt that?

Sunday, April 27
The real issue
 
It is early, I've been sitting up with the baby.....

The real issue for me this morning relates to civility. There are no simple answers, but whatever happened to respect and consideration? When was the last time that a stranger said "please" or "thank you" to you"? When was the last time that you said "please" or "thank you". When I was a kid these were taught as being the magic words. These words greased the wheels of civil society. These simple words connote respect for and consideration of other people. I don't hear these words very often. On a personal level, my pet peeve is when you hold a door open for someone and that person struts on through without any acknowledgement of your existence. Is it so difficult to make eye contact and say "thank you?" Are we all afraid? Whatever the root cause we certainly have have become less civil.

Pay for Performance
 
In the U.S. last year, despite massive layoffs, CEO earnings were up 10% over the previous year. What is wrong with this picture? Could viable corporate reform ever happen in the U.S.? In Britain they are getting set to address CEO greed by limiting the amounts that CEO's of failing coompnies can earn.

Friday, April 25
Wrong Reasons
 
The U.S. invaded Iraq for all of the wrong reasons and the negative ramifications of the U.S. show of power will be felt for years, but when you read stories like this and this (password/id: "rbyrd") you can't help but be glad that that bastard Saddam is out of power.

Me Tarzan!!
 
Now, despite the "excellent" U.S. intelligence to the contrary, there don't seem to be any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Now the real reason for the war is coming to light. (Not that those of us who were opposed to the war ever bought the WMD mantras.) It seems that the U.S. invaded Iraq, a nation with a paper military that collapsed on contact, in order to show the world how big and mighty it is. Iraqi's were killed so that BushCo could thump its collective chest. Kind of makes you feel good to be an American, huh?

Thursday, April 24
Surveillance
 
They are everywhere. They've been popping up like mushrooms over the past few years. Look around you when you enter or leave a building. Do you see the cameras? How many are there? Drive into a parking garage. Do you see the cameras? How many are there? Drive to a shopping mall. Do you see the cameras aimed at the parking lot? When you go into a store look for the half dome shapes on the ceiling. Those are cameras. In a department store, those half domes may be spaced every 10 or 20 feet. There may be dozens on any floor, in any one store. Everywhere you go you are recorded.

You expect to be watched when you go to a bank. You probably realize that there are cameras mounted at every ATM. You now expect to be watched at the airport. But have you realized how common video surveillance has become? As an experiment try counting the number of surveillance cameras that you see on any given day. Look for the cameras mounted on traffic signals. Your image is being recorded along with the date and time of the shot.

You say that you have nothing to hide and that this surveillance doesn't matter. Fair enough, most of us don't have anything to hide, but do we still want our movements recorded?

As this article (password/id: "rbyrd") explains, the age of recording images on video tape is long past. These images are now stored on hard drives. These digital images are easily reviewed and accessed. Using digitized images also allows for the use of biometric information. Your face can be matched to a database of faces of known terrorists or criminals or perhaps, suspected terrorists or suspected criminals. You may be barred from boarding a plane or entering a sports stadium if there is a match. At this stage, biometrics is in its infancy, there are many false positives.

In addition, this electronic data can be easily transferred and shared. Theoretically, a person with access to numerous private and/or public surveillance databases could recreate where someone has gone on a given day. You may not care if the bank knows when you withdrew money from a specific ATM or whether MACY's has video of you shopping or whether Burger King has video of you eating at one of its franchises. But would you care if someone had video of you at the bank, at MACY'S and at Burger King? Would it make you uncomfortable if someone, John Ashcroft for instance, had video of your comings and goings throughout any given day? Would it make you more uncomfortable if they also had video from the bars that you went to and if they knew how long you were there? Or what if there was video of your visit to an adult bookstore? Do you want someone to know all of this about you? Again, you probably don't have anything to hide.

In a free society we expect to be exactly that, "free". Free from interference. Free to generally do as we please. If we have the feeling or the knowledge that we are being watched, are we truly free? Would you go into that gay bar or adult bookstore if you knew that you could be identified? Would you choose instead to go to a different bar and a more acceptable bookstore? Would the knowledge of the surveillance cause you to moderate your behavior? If so, then you aren't free.

Our understanding of privacy has evolved. Much of what passes for "privacy" is really "anonymity". Much of what we do is not really private -- the adult bookstore salesperson sees us, for instance -- but for the most part our shopping is "anonymous". The adult bookstore salesperson may handle a sale for us, but they need not know who we are. We could pay with cash. We don't shop in private, but we can shop anonymously. Electronic surveillance takes away that anonymity. Every credit card transaction is recorded and is ripe for datamining.

Privacy must now be understood as an expectation of a limit on the degree of accessibility of information. We may feel anonymous as long as the numerous video images of us are not connected. But once these images are connected -- and they are increasingly connected as these functions are handled by security firms and not the individual stores -- we have lost our anonymity. Increasingly, we are losing our right to privacy. Count those cameras.

Wednesday, April 23
way to go Bruce
 
Bruce Springsteen defends the Dixie Chicks in a statement published on his website.

Surprised?!
 
BushCo folks are expressing surprise at the strength of the Iraqi Shiites. BushCo is surprised that it is possible that an anti U.S. fundamentalist government could be created in Iraq. BushCo can only be surprised because the administration didn't listen to anyone who voiced a hint of dissent. It doesn't do any good to say "we told you so". But you can't help but feel that a little, despite the overwhelming feelings of despair.
As Iraqi Shiite demands for a dominant role in Iraq's future mount, Bush administration officials say they underestimated the Shiites' organizational strength and are unprepared to prevent the rise of an anti-American, Islamic fundamentalist government in the country.

The burst of Shiite power -- as demonstrated by the hundreds of thousands who made a long-banned pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala yesterday -- has U.S. officials looking for allies in the struggle to fill the power vacuum left by the downfall of Saddam Hussein.

As the administration plotted to overthrow Hussein's government, U.S. officials said this week, it failed to fully appreciate the force of Shiite aspirations and is now concerned that those sentiments could coalesce into a fundamentalist government. Some administration officials were dazzled by Ahmed Chalabi, the prominent Iraqi exile who is a Shiite and an advocate of a secular democracy. Others were more focused on the overriding goal of defeating Hussein and paid little attention to the dynamics of religion and politics in the region.
(Here is the whole story.)

Tuesday, April 22
Kid Prisoners
 
Someone said that the U.S. wouldn't do this. Someone said that the U.S. would treat children differently. But the U.S. is doing it. Children under the age of 16 are imprisoned at camp Xray in Cuba.

$200 Million
 
Peanuts compared to my wife's Amaxon.com credit, but twice what BushCo spent getting "elected" the first time around. BushCo plans to spend $200 million campaigning prior to the Republican convention in 2004. This is campaigning like we have never seen before. This money will be spent during the campaign when BushCo has no opposition. It is intended to highlight BushCo while the democratic nominee hasn't been chosen. In this way BushCo is intended to stand out from the inevitable democratic horse race. In addition, the Republican convention will be a full month later than he Democratic convention. Federal spending limits of $75 million take effect between the nominating convention and the election. By delaying the convention itself, BushCo is able to spend more money than any democratic candidate.

In addition, the Republican convention will be in New York City in early September. BushCo will certainly highlight that fact. Then on September 11th BushCo will focus on the memorials in new York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon. This way BushCo hopes to dominate the airways in September. It will be free airtime. If this Republican strategy works, then the only time that the Democratic nominee will get any airtime will be in October. At that time the Republicans will spend the $75 million election funds and attempt to drown out the Democratic nominee. This is a bold and smart strategy. This is Karl Rove at his finest. Fox of course will play along with the entire plan. The other networks may play along too since that will be the easiest "news" course to follow.

The democrats had better get their ducks in a row quickly. Or else we will all be hailing, "Emperor Bush."

The good news is that the republicans could still trip themselves up on their own rhetoric and xenophobia. For example, many of BushCo's advisers see Senator Kerry, as the most likely Democratic nominee. One Bush adviser allegedly said that Kerry, "Looks French." As if that would be a reason not to vote for him. If the voters are that simplistic in 2004 then the U.S. is really in trouble. (Read the whole story here. "rbyrd")


$1,202,590,819.32
 
I don't have one of those Amazon wishlists or donation accounts, but you might think that my wife did or that she had made some incredible purchases. She called to tell she had a $1,202,590,819.32 credit in her Amaxon.com account. That's right $1,202,590,819.32! Do you want us to buy you anything? Do they real estate on Amazon? My wife telephoned Amazon.com customer service to tell them about this amazing credit. The customer service representative was nonplussed. She merely stated that that happens sometimes, it is a "computer glitch". Some glitch. The amount is still listed as a credit. This apparently has happened to other accounts too. I wonder if anyone ever spends down their computer glitch credit?

Earth Day
 
Today is Earth Day. (Forgive me, but I feel preachy today.)

It may not mean much to you, but it is important to me. I remember when Earth Day was first celebrated. In the '70's the environment seemed like one of those things that we could protect. The '70's were a time full of hope and infinite possibilities. Decreasing our dependence on fossil fuels, driving more efficient cars, using fewer toxics and increasing our reliance on alternative fuels didn't seem like a pipe dream. However, under BushCo each of these goals seems further and further away every day.

Instead of Gore, who would have been our most environmental president, we have BushCo. The most corporate, most anti-environmental president that I can imagine. And he is succeeding swiftly with his pro business policies. National forests have been opened to extensive logging, ANWR may be opened to drilling, mountaintop mining rights are being expanded, air and water pollution standards are being relaxed, fuel economy has not improved in years and PVC's are still in some toys -- to name but a few of the setbacks. It seems that for every step forward that the U.S. has taken in the past decade BushCo has been able to take the U.S. two steps back in just a couple of years.

It is necessary for each of us to take stock of where we live and what we are doing, or by our passivity, allowing to be done to our home -- Planet Earth. All too often in our busy lives we don't realize where we live. Sure we know that we live in a house in a city and that we go to work in a tall building. But that isn't what I mean. Do you know what plants are native to where you live? Do you know where the water that you drink comes from? Do you know what existed where you live before your house was built? We are stewards of the earth. We must preserve the earth for the next generation. (Okay I have been preachy enough.)

The first step to protecting the earth is knowing the impact that each of us has on the earth. We that knowledge we can act to reduce our impact.

Measure your Ecological Footprint. Learn how many acres it takes to support your lifestyle. (I think that we are fairly frugal and conscious about the resources that we use, but my family needs 15 acres to support us. We'll learn to do better.)

Sunday, April 20
Train Wreck
 
It is late in the day and you may have read this already, but if you haven't you must read today's New York times editorial. Here are the first few paragraphs:
While President Bush pursues the fight against terrorism and the military effort in Iraq, he's also staging a new battle on the home front for his domestic programs. Last week he began by stumping the country for his tax cut plan, a cornerstone of his presidential ambitions. Mr. Bush's successful prosecution of the war in Iraq does not mean that Americans must now fall in line behind his misguided domestic agenda. On almost every front, it is a disaster, a national train wreck that must be headed off for the country's well-being.

From the beginning, the key to Mr. Bush's domestic vision has been massive tax cuts, which Republican ideologues see both as a reward to the well-heeled, and a key to starving the government of money that might be spent on programs like health care or housing. Conservatives once viewed deficits as the height of bad fiscal policy. Now, they embrace them. There is no danger that a government swimming in red ink will come up with new programs to protect the environment, to extend health care for the poor or provide affordable housing to the homeless. No matter how much the president says he wants to improve education, the deficit is an all-purpose excuse to avoid helping public school districts overcome crippling cuts imposed by local governments that are teetering on insolvency.

The tax cuts are also meant to give Mr. Bush the appearance of fighting to improve the economy. But if the pain of millions of newly unemployed workers was the real point, Mr. Bush would have paid at least some attention to a recent report by the Republicans' hand-picked head of the Congressional Budget Office. Using the administration's own tax-cut-friendly method of analysis, he concluded that further tax reductions would have no notable impact on the economy. Yet, the president presses on for another $550 billion in cuts over 10 years.

The tax cuts are not the White House's only goal. The nation learned shortly after Mr. Bush's inauguration that he was not going to govern from the center, as many had assumed given the election results. Instead, he has permitted his far-right base to take over vast swaths of domestic policy making. What the public has not noticed is how far that effort has already succeeded. Using low-profile executive actions and administrative changes, Mr. Bush has quietly accomplished what he wants behind the scenes. The Department of Housing and Urban Development, for instance, recently announced plans to allow public funds to be used to help build churches, as long as part of the building is used to provide social services. That was one of the administration's multiple attempts to blur the line between church and state. As the Senate amended the "faith-based initiative" to try to keep that separation clear, administration aides were assuring reporters that what went out in the legislature was being reinstated through executive order.

Drawing precisely the wrong lesson from history, the Bush administration has slashed away at core constitutional protections in the name of fighting terrorism. The Justice Department claims the power to hold American citizens in prison indefinitely without access to lawyers simply because they have been labeled "enemy combatants." Terrorism suspects have been held in secret detention, their hearings closed to the public. Meanwhile, members of Congress who try to question Attorney General John Ashcroft about such policies are either ignored or accused of aiding the enemy.
Go here to read the rest. (password/id "rbyrd").

(Self-serving note: Before you go, check the box on the left to open links in new windows so that you can get back here easily to read more Byrd's Brain!)


Friday, April 18
Civilians face health risk after latest use of depleted uranium
 
Hundreds of tons of depleted uranium used by Britain and the United States in Iraq should be removed to protect the civilian population, said the Royal Society, Britain's premier scientific institution, contradicting Pentagon claims that its removal was not necessary. What harm is a little uranium in your playground? It is depleted after all.

this isn't how I define "honor"
 
According to Pakistan's main human rights body, at least 461 women were killed by their family members in "honor killings" in 2002.

Organic Victory is Personal
 
My wife and I were lacto ovo vegetarians until a year ago. At that time our daughter wasn't eating much of what we offered her. Tofu and most faux meats (tofu again) weren't very interesting to her. But she needed protein from a nondairy source, so we decided to try adding chicken to our diet. Fortunately, from a parents' perspective (or unfortunately from a vegetarian's perspective) our daughter took to "chicken meat" like a duck to water. We are concerned about the hormones (which I believe are the cause for the increasingly early onset of puberty in girls) and antibiotics (which are leading to drug resistant diseases, such as the growing recurrence of tuberculosis) that are in commercial meat products and the effect that they might have on our daughter's health. Therefore, she only eats organic (hormone and antibiotic free) chicken. Many of the reasons that I become a vegetarian have to do with the ecological effects and health impacts of factory farming, so this compromise, eating organic chicken, isn't too far a stretch for me.

We were concerned though, in February, when we read about a particular rider had been added to a budget bill. That rider was written for the benefit of a specific Georgia poultry farm. The legislation would have allowed farmers to label meat and dairy products as organic without using 100 percent organic feed if the price of organic feed was more than twice that of conventional feed. The only policy behind this arrogant legislation was to save money. It would have destroyed the true organic poultry market.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel, were among the leaders of a bipartisan effort to repeal this rider (Section 771) by amending a supplemental spending bill. BushCo signed the repeal Wednesday.

Once again "organic" means "organic". (Read the whole story here.)


P.S. If our 7 month old son continues with his current habits we won't have any problems getting him to eat, once he has teeth. Right now he will eat anything that we offer him.



Thursday, April 17
Fear Controls
 
A fearful people lose their ability for critical thinking.

"We are busy trying to educate people, but the worried mind doesn't always hear."

- DR. LAURENE MASCOLA, of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, on SARS.

(NYTimes password/id: "rbyrd".)


This certainly explains the bizarre post Iraq invasion support for BushCo.

Wednesday, April 16
A Most Different View
 
The staff at the hospital where Jessica Lynch was treated have a distinctly different view of the events surrounding her rescue. The U.S. does not come off very well in this version of the rescue. According to the account, the soldiers terrorized the staff.
THE rescue of Private Jessica Lynch, which inspired America during one of the most difficult periods of the war, was not the heroic Hollywood story told by the US military, but a staged operation that terrified patients and victimised the doctors who had struggled to save her life, according to Iraqi witnesses.

Doctors at al-Nasiriyah general hospital said that the airborne assault had met no resistance and was carried out a day after all the Iraqi forces and Baath leadership had fled the city.

Four doctors and two patients, one of whom was paralysed and on an intravenous drip, were bound and handcuffed as American soldiers rampaged through the wards, searching for departed members of the Saddam regime.
...

Private Lynch’s military guards would allow no other doctor to tend to her and Dr Harith formed a friendship with her. She talked to him about her family, including her arguments about money with her father, and about her boyfriend, a Hispanic soldier named Ruben.

Dr Harith went outside the hospital during the bombing to get supplies of Private Lynch’s favourite drink, orange juice, and struggled to persuade her to eat.
...
After her condition stabilised, they ordered Dr Harith to transfer Jessica to another hospital.

Instead he told the ambulance driver to deliver her to one of the American outposts that had already been established on the ouskirts of the city.

“But when he reached their checkpoint, the Americans fired at him,” he said.

On April 1 the local Baathists fled al-Nasiriyah for Baghdad and arrived at the hospital looking for their prize captive. Dr Harith moved her to another part of the hospital, and other doctors told the soldiers that he was away.

“They said that they thought Jessica had died, and they didn’t know where she was,” he said. In their haste and confusion the soldiers left, leaving behind only a few critically injured soldiers.

The American “rescue” operation came on the night of April 2. The hospital was bombarded and soldiers arrived in helicopters and, according to the hospital doctors, in tanks that pulled up outside the hospital.

Most of the doctors fled to the shelter of the radiology department on the first floor.

“We heard them firing and shouting: ‘Go! Go! Go! Go!’ ” Dr Harith said. One group of soldiers dug up the graves of dead US soldiers outside the hospital, while another interrogated doctors about Ali Hassan al-Majid, the senior Baath party figure known as Chemical Ali, who had never been seen there. A third group looked for Private Lynch.

US soldiers videotaped the rescue, but among the many scenes not shown to the press at US Central Command in Doha was one of four doctors who were handcuffed and interrogated, along with two civilian patients, one of whom was immobile and connected to a drip. “They were doctors, with stethoscopes round their necks,” Dr Harith said.
...
Unluckiest of all was Abdul Razaq, one of the hospital administrators, who took shelter from the bombardment in Private Lynch’s room, believing that he would be safe.

He was seized and taken with the US soldiers on their helicopter to their base, where he was held for three days in an open-air prison camp.

“There are two faces to Americans,” Dr Harith said. “One is freedom and democracy, and giving kids sweets. The other is killing and hating my people. So I am very confused. I feel sad because I will never see Jessica again, and I feel happy because she is happy and has gone back to her life. If I could speak to her I would say: ‘Congratulations!’”
(Read the whole story -- TimesOnLine "rbyrd")


the fall of France
 
Afghanistan,Iraq, Syria, Iran and then France....
The fall of France was astonishingly swift. After regime change in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, it was only a matter of time before Tony Blair and George W. Bush said that they had “no plans” to attack France. The detested Jacques Chirac had long been a thorn in their sides. He was a past friend of Saddam Hussein, welcomed Arab exiles and had a suspiciously large Muslim population. Above all, he refused point-blank to disband his force de frappe weapons of mass destruction. As Donald Rumsfeld had said back in 2003: “Things mean consequences.” France posed a clear and immediate threat. The coalition acted in pre-emptive self-defence. It was a pity about the Louvre.

Coalition forces again fought “battle-lite”. The application of shock-and-awe to Caen and Rouen and the blasting of infrastructure targets round Paris devastated French morale. A re-enactment of Operation Overlord saw the 21st Army Group reform in Hampshire and storm ashore at Normandy’s Omaha and Utah beaches. Veteran units of the 101st Airborne were allowed to seize Pegasus Bridge, again. The Marine Corps had Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks “embedded”.

The A13 to Paris was quickly secured. Predictions of a last stand in the capital’s streets by Gaullist Resistance irregulars on barricades proved groundless. GPS-guided missiles took out regime buildings on the Ile de la Cité, Quai d’Orsay and Les Invalides. The Elysée presidential palace “complex” was soon a 50ft crater. The looting of the Louvre was regretted, but not stopped. Wild scenes greeted the arrival of the Mona Lisa at the Metropolitan, in New York. A shadow government was soon established in a town called Vichy.
...
The toppling of the Chirac regime was the inevitable application of this ideology. It was not imperialism. Washington had no desire to stick around when the cameras had already been directed to a new rogue. It was rather adventurism. American foreign policy did mergers and acquisitions, not management. They could topple but, as they found in Kabul and Baghdad, they had no clue about rebuilding. They just wanted to make a point. Upset Uncle Sam and you will lose your power, your palace, your art treasures and bring death and destruction to your cities.
(For the whole story -- TimesOnLine "rbyrd")

Coming to a health club near you?
 
Do you punish yourself if you don't meet your exercise goals? Go easier on yourself, let someone else punish you. No pain, no gain! Slavercise.

Portability
 
My wife and I have had cell phones for 6 years. Somehow they have became an indispensable accessory to our lives. We have used three different wireless companies and may change carriers again when our current contract expires. We have chosen carriers based on the company's coverage in our area and price. Like everyone else, we want to pay as little as possible and we don't want calls dropped. Each time that we have changed wireless carriers we have had to get new phone numbers. This has been a nuisance. With landline phones we expect to have the same phone number for the foreseeable future and maybe to "take it" with us if we move locally.

Since 1996 the The Federal Communications Commission has sought to encourage competition by letting cellphone users move the same number from one wireless network to another. This "portability" rule has been delayed 3 times due to objections from the wireless industry. The industry realizes that there is very little brand loyalty. For the most part, each of us will try to use the cheapest carrier with the best service. If we can keep our phone numbers when we switch there will be much less hassle to the transition. Clearly, the FCC portability rule is consumer friendly. It will encourage price and service competition by removing the primary obstacle to changing carriers. In its latest salvo to stop this rule the wireless companies have taken the FCC to court. An opinion is expected from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia within 45 to 60 days. If the authority of the FCC to issue the rule is upheld by the court -- and no other delay tactic is tried -- then come November we will be able to take our cell phone numbers with us when we switch carriers. Consumers may actually win one here. (Full story, NY Times passord/id:rbyrd.)

Hand Jobs
 
The final frontier for plastic surgery -- Hand Work. You've had everything else altered, but your hands give you away. Now for just a couple thousand dollars you can get plastic surgery for your hands.
Five ways to take years off your hands.

* Liposuction fat from your thighs or other "problem areas."
* Inject fat to plump up and smoth "bony" hands. (Store extra fat for touch-ups.)
* Zap wrinkles with special lasers that stimulate collagen.
* Collapse bulging veins with saline solutions.
* Laser, sand or peel away discolorations and sun spots.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Lift and Tuck

A look at some of the more popular cosmetic procedures

SURGICAL PCT CHANGE: PROCEDURES 2002 from 2001

Nose-reshaping 354,327 -4 percent

Liposuction 282,876 +3

Breast augmentation 236,888 +8

Eyelid surgery 230,672 -3

Facelift 117,831 -5

Breast lift 56,822 +3

Breast reduction in men 14,343 -23

Cheek implants 9,224 +9

Buttock lift 1,388 +4

NON-SURGICAL PCT CHANGE: PROCEDURES 2002 from 2001

Botox injections 1,123,510 +31 percent

Chemical peel 920,340 -31

Laser hair removal 587,540 -15

Source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons SFChron


Tuesday, April 15
War Distraction
 
I have said it before (and here) and I'll say it again -- the war is a distraction. It turns our focus to the war and away from Osama, the economy and domestic politics. And as Paul Krugman (password/id:rbyrd) points out, the distraction is very effective.
But back to the amazing spectacle of the war's opening, when the House voted to cut the benefits of the men and women it praised a few minutes earlier. What that scene demonstrated was the belief of the Republican leadership that if it wraps itself in the flag, and denounces critics as unpatriotic, it can get away with just about anything. And the scary thing is that this belief may be justified.

For the overwhelming political lesson of the last year is that war works — that is, it's an excellent cover for the Republican Party's domestic political agenda. In fact, war works in two ways. The public rallies around the flag, which means the President and his party; and the public's attention is diverted from other issues.
Let's not all be "good patriots".

Monday, April 14
Chicken Parts
 
People need to know where their food comes from. People need to know how animals are treated. Factory farming is cold, cruel and merciless. All that matters is the profit margin. The care of the animals being bred is secondary, if it is considered at all. How else to explain this! I eat eggs. There an effect to everything. Gross me out.

Hit List
 
We knew this was coming. We feared that this was coming. BushCo has a hit list.

North Korea is too hard to attack and besides, they blinked first (Password/id: rbyrd). So BushCo will stay focused on the Middle East. This is in keeping with the Project for the New American Century which calls for U.S. domination in the Middle East. Iraq was only the first step. We've known that Iran is on the list, after all it is part of the "Axis of Evil". Well Syria has officially just moved up to the top of the BushCo hit list.
The White House branded Syria a "terrorist state" today and accused it of stockpiling the nerve agent sarin.

"They do, indeed, harbour terrorists. Syria is a terrorist state," Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, said amid widespread speculation that the war on Iraq was the opening shot of a wider American campaign in the region.

Mr Fleischer noted that Syria was on the annual US State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism. He also cited a 2002 CIA report to the US Congress that said Syria had apparently been trying to build on an arsenal that included a stockpile of the nerve agent sarin.

His comments came a day after President Bush claimed that Syria had chemical weapons and renewed the allegation that Syria has taken in leaders of Saddam's dismantled regime.

"Do you think the White House and President Bush should look the other way at the fact that Syria is taking in Iraqi leaders? Do you think we should just ignore it?" said Mr Fleischer. "I think Syria understands our message.

"People have to realise that there are acceptable standards of behaviour that the world, and certainly the free Iraqi people, hope will be followed by its neighbours, including Syria," he said. Timesonline
The good news is that respected Republican Lawrence Eagleburger, who was Secretary of State for Daddy Bush, and others, are declaring that if George W. Bush were to take military action against Iran and Syria, that he should be impeached. (Link via Tom Spencer.) The left and the right are coming together on this issue. Enough is enough.

But not for BushCo. Impeachment is a high standard to meet. Maybe a serious threat of impeachment would be enough to curtail BushCo's plans? Maybe not. Maybe they expect to be around a long time.

FOr instance, we learn from Blah3 that on January 3rd a resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to repeal the twenty-second article of amendment, thereby removing the limitation on the number of terms an individual may serve as President. But this was was introduced by Democrat -- Rep. Serrano (D-NY). Oh what a tangled web we weave.

Saturday, April 12
Have They No Humility?
 
If the invasion wasn't for oil then why are the oil fields secured and antiquities destroyed? The U.S. didn't have any soldiers to guard a museum or to try to restore order? Clearly, there was no post Saddam planning. The planning was only to secure the oil fields and take control of Iraq. I bet that they don't even care that much about finding Saddam any more. They've got the nation, why fret over that tyrant? There was no plan to protect Iraqi citizens or Iraqi culture. Why be bothered by a little anarchy? People and culture are of no importance to the lucre of BushCo.

Friday, April 11
 
A federal judge in San Francisco has blocked BushCo's bid to loosen standards under which tuna sold in U.S. stores can be labeled "dolphin safe". But the case isn't closed, the issue will be resolved at trial later this year.


Language Explosion
 
My daughter is 2 and half years old. I have nieces and nephews and I have been around young children often during my life, but until I had children of my own I had never really noticed the stages of growth. The last month for my daughter has been marked by a language explosion. She has spoken for more than a year. Like all children, she began by picking up key words here and there. “Mommy”” and “Daddy”, of course, “milk” and other important words. Then she slowly strung words together. But in the past month her language skills have exploded.

She now speaks with complete sentences. She knows pronouns and adjectives and verbs. If you aren’t a parent you have to understand that no one taught my daughter these nuances of language. We taught her words. For the most part, individual words. We always try to explain things to her and have talked to her as if she understood everything that we said, but we haven't taught language per se to her.

Instead, she and her friends absorbed what they noticed around them and just picked up how to form sentences. My daughter and I can now converse. The feeling of carrying on a conversation with your child for the first time can’t be adequately described. You are both elated and amazed. In your head you are thinking, "This is cool, but how did she learn this?" Like all of her accomplishments, we have congratulated her on her new skills. We want her to know that she is doing well, we are proud of her, but we don't want to make to big a deal about her progress.

The same is true of her potty training. She has learned to use the potty during the past two weeks. She seems to have waited until she was ready and then one day was tired of diapers. I'll spare you the details, although with other parents it seems that I can talk about the most intimate aspects of potty training at length, it is not relevant for this discussion. Years ago I never would have imagined that I would talk about a child’s progress on the potty and her progression from diapers. Everything in life is relative. What seems absurd at one point in our lives may become the focus of our lives at a later time.

Our daughter has grown up a lot in the past month. She has learned to use the potty and she can converse. These are big events in a toddler's life. My wife and I have decided that it is time for another milestone.

I am going to remove the railing from one side of her crib. I’ll convert it into a toddler bed this weekend. We have kept her in a crib for our sakes. We haven’t wanted her roaming the house at all hours. But that seems unfair to her. We’ll have to learn to deal with her independence and hope that she doesn't come into our room or her brother's room at all hours of the night.

Thump Thump
 
My son is 6 months old. A month ago he began scooting across the floor. Actually scooting sometimes forward, but more frequently backwards. To scoot he would push himself up onto his hands and knees, kind of rock back and forth and then launch himself. If his feet held he would launch forward, but most often his feet would slip and he would move backward. My son is not an example of patience. He found this very frustrating. When he realized that he had moved several feet backward, and that many feet further away form his goal --- a toy or one of his sister’s books-- he would stop and cry. Not just any cry mind you, but a wail.

Last week he progressed from scooting to crawling. He crawled slowly at first, but now he zooms. He delights in each of his accomplishments. He smiles and laughs when he has learned a new skill. When he crawls he makes a "thump thump" sounds as his hands and knees move on the floor. He loves to crawl around the house, but since he is teething too we have to be very careful about what is on the floor. He will put anything and everything into his mouth. Fortunately for us, his Sister is quite good at her self appointed task of keeping small objects off of the floor. Although, even with her vigilance, some things are missed. Often items are missed simply because they appear to be too far away for him to reach -- they are outside of his likely roaming area. However, we have all learned the hard way that nothing is outside of his territory. His sister will sometimes find him chewing on one of her toys or her books. She will take (rip) the coveted item from his clutches, but she also has to give him one of his toys as a replacement. Also, he loves paper, so we have to be careful about leaving the mail or a newspaper on the floor. Last night I was reading the town paper with my son crawling toward me on the floor. When he hot to me I would pick him up and move him back across the room. Undeterred, he would crawly quickly back to me. If I was fast enough he would grab part of the newspaper and tear and chew on it. We repeated this three times until I gave up trying to read the paper. Each of the sections was balled up, torn in places and wet from his chewing. That might explain why I get most of my news from online sources.

Thursday, April 10
The Congo
 
We seem to know only what we learn from television, so we don't know that much. The war focus in the U.S. was on Afghanistan -- remember that-- and now it is on Iraq. Lest we forget, Afghanistan and Iraq aren't the only wars happening in the world. Unfortunately there are conflicts all over the frigging planet. Today's war of special note is that in the Democratic Republic of Congo. That war has killed more people than any conflict since World War II, according to a report released this week.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has completed a mortality study that estimates the number of dead caused by the five-year-old war in the Democratic Republic of Congo at more than 3.3 million, the largest toll of any conflict in recorded African history.

"This is a humanitarian catastrophe of horrid and shocking proportions," said George Rupp, IRC's president. "The worst mortality projections in the event of a lengthy war in Iraq, and the death toll from all the recent wars in the Balkans don't even come close."
...
Of the more than three million people killed in the DRC, according to the IRC report, only about ten percent died violently; the rest were victims of starvation and disease resulting from the activities of the various armed groups, which, in addition to forces from Uganda and Rwanda, also included troops from Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Angola, as well as the DRC army, Rwandan Hutu rebel groups, and a variety of indigenous ethnic and political groups and militias.

Millions were forced to flee from their homes and live in the wild, with no access to medical care or regular food or cooking supplies. The vast majority perished from easily treatable diseases and malnutrition; young children were the least likely to survive. In three of ten health zones visited by IRC research teams, more than half the children had died before reaching the age of two. Yahoo News


Targeting Post War Iraq
 
Directors of the Carlyle Group (which I have written about here, here, and here) -- one of the world’s largest armament companies -- are planning on meeting in Lisbon in three weeks. The agenda? Business opportunities in post-war Iraq. The Group is managed by Frank Carlucci, former deputy director of the CIA before becoming Defense Secretary and James Baker II, who was Secretary of State under BushCo's dad. Daddie Bush and John Major, former British Prime Minister, represent the company overseas.

Poppie (directly) and Shrub (indirectly -- remember that he wants to get rid of the inheritance tax...) personally profited from the Iraq war because, "The American based Carlyle Group is heavily involved in supplying arms to the Coalition forces..." Carlyle Group weapons were used to destroy parts of Iraq. Now the Carlyle group seeks to benefit from that destruction by being paid to rebuild what was destroyed.
Along with several other US companies, the Carlyle Group is expected to be awarded a billion dollar contract by the US Government to help in the redevelopment of airfields and urban areas destroyed by Coalition aerial bombardments. The Portugal News
There is something unseemly about this arrangement. The Carlyle Group benefits before, during and after a war. How tidy. Moreover, the fact that the family of the man who ordered the invasion of Iraq benefits from the war and its aftereffects is quite troubling. Do you think that more was bombed so that there would be more to rebuild? Is that too cynical a view? When you take into account the human toll, the carnage, that this war has wrought, the profits earned by the Carlyle Group and the Bush family are disgusting and ill-gotten. Will there be more wars -- with Syria or Iran, for instance -- so that the Carlyle Group and the Bushes can profit?


P.S. The Carlyle Group -- and Poppie and Shrub perhaps -- also has close ties with the Saudi Binladen Corporation (SBC) and Osama Binladen's family. Find out more here, and here.

P.S.S. For more incestuous connections between war and profits read this. (NYTimes password/id: rbyrd)


RummyCo
 
Mark Fiore suggests that we let RummyCo handle all of Iraq's post-war needs.

Musings on the train
 
The sun is coming up. The train whistle is blowing as we roll past intersections. We can see sheep peacefully grazing in a field. Now we are passing a pasture full of cows. The ground everywhere is full of promise. It is green with new growth. A fine spring morning in Northern California.

I wonder what it was like this morning in Iran? In Afghanistan? Or in Eritrea, for that matter.

I look out the large window of the train car. Scenery passes quickly by. It is almost as if the window is a big screen television. What is the reality? What I see outside the train or what I am experiencing inside the train?

Which is more real? Which affects more? I look at my my fellow train travelers. We are variously working at our laptops, sleeping or reading the newspaper. In this reality everyone is oblivious to the reality in Iraq. Most are even oblivious to the scenery outside the train. Reading about war is not the same as experiencing it. Seeing war on television may make it seem real, but we don't experience it. Our viewing is passive. All war is very far away. It seems surreal.

War seems even more distant and unimaginable as I look out the window at the animals grazing. Is that why it is easy to support a war whose reality one doesn't experience?

Tuesday, April 8
travelling
 
Tomorrow I will be travelling for work and unable to post any updates. Don't you hate it when work interferes with life? But then is blogging "life"?

Impeachment
 
Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General during the Johnson Administration, has drafted articles of impeachment setting forth high crimes and misdemeanors by President Bush and other officers of his administration. Read the Articles of Impeachment here and notes on the impeachment power here.

End of the World As We Know It
 
SARS may have been spread by cockroaches.

The Carlyle Group is set to buy Fiat's aerospace unit in order to expand its defense industry market share. War is good for Bush and Shrub.

Hon, where's the baby?

Don't eat Australian beef -- Australia just approved more antibiotics for cattle industry.

Why worry about solving the underlying issues, when you can just lock 'em up? The U.S. has a record high jail population -- 2 million!

Monday, April 7
 
Photos from the Robot Exhibition.

Fiction/Fantasy
 
Why do people believe that Iraqis were the perpetrators of the September 11th attacks? Why have most Americans forgotten about Afghanistan as if it were under control and on its way to democracy, instead of heading toward anarchy? Why do most Americans believe Saddam is public enemy number one and why have they forgotten about Osama bin Laden? Why do most Americans refuse to believe that the U.S. has invaded Iraq as part of a master plan to control the Middle East and its oil? Why do Americans believe that the U.S. is killing Iraqis in order to free them? Why do most Americans support the war? How in the hell do most Americans think that BushCo is doing a good job?

I am frustrated by this and afraid that it is summed up all too well in what is called the Wizard's First Rule, from a series of fantasy fiction novels by Terry Goodkind.
"People can be made to believe any lie because they want to believe it is true, or because they are afraid that it is true."
Americans are generally ill informed and many are so afraid of their own shadow that BushCo can manipulate them to believe almost anything. Just as long as Americans think that their safety is at stake they'll accept what is fed to them. Hence we are on an "Orange Alert" -- Americans better be wary until we get that Saddam guy. I wonder what scare will be created come presidential election time? Maybe North Korea or Syria will be threatening national security. Or do you think that Osama will be resurrected then?

Saturday, April 5
Anti War Protestors = Terrorists?
 
Obviously, the intent of any protest is to influence the actions of an organization, people in general and/or the government. Antiwar protests are intended to affect public opinion about the invasion of Iraq and to influence government policy. Depending on one's view of the antiwar demonstration itself, one might feel intimidated by the large numbers of protestors. One might even feel coerced if one is unable to get to work or is unable to travel freely during the protest.

Section 802 of the Patriot Act defines "domestic terrorism" as activities that:

(B) appear to be intended--
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and
(C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.
This is a very broad definition. In order to control public opinion and curtail dissent Commandant Ashcroft could use this section to jail protesters. That might seem far fetched today, but what about protestors a few years hence? We are on the proverbial "slippery slope".

We might have grown accustomed to the Patriot Act by then, we might be held in check by the threat of terrorism, we will want stability in our lives. We might not complain when protesters are arrested and held incommunicado. Without the protestors in our faces we can go about our lives. We can rely on Fox News and remain oblivious to the realities in the world. There will be few voices of dissent. We are embarking on a Brave New World.

If you think this is too farfeteched, check this out. A proposed Oregon law would jail street-blocking protesters as terrorists. The jail sentences would be for at least 25 years.


Friday, April 4
The toll of the war
 
The Independent has detailed the toll of the war:
130,000 British and American troops are in action in Iraq from a total force of 250,000 in the Gulf. The Allies have launched 725 Tomahawk cruise missiles, flown 18,000 sorties, dropped 50 cluster bombs and discharged 12,000 precision-guided munitions. There have been an estimated 1,252 Iraqi civilian deaths,57 Kurdish deaths and 5,103 civilian injuries. 88 Allied troops have been killed in the conflict, 27 of whom are British. At least 12 Allied soldiers are missing, 34 Allied soldiers have been killed in 'friendly fire' incidents or battlefield accidents. 9 journalists have been killed or are unaccounted for. There have been 2 suicide attacks on US troops, killing 7 soldiers. 8,023 Iraqi combatants have been taken prisoner of war. So far, 0 weapons of mass destruction have been found. 1,500,000 people in southern Iraq have no access to clean water. 200,000 children in southern Iraq are at risk of death from diarrhoea. 17,000,000 Iraqis are reliant on food aid, which has now been stopped. 600 oil wells and refineries are now under British and American control. 80bn dollars has been set aside by US Congress to meet the cost of war. A capital city of 5,000,000 people now stands between the Allied forces and their 1 objective: the removal of Saddam Hussein.
BushCo is probably proud of these numbers. Unlike the rest of the world, BushCo probably sleeps well tonight.

Record Co's Sue
 
In the first actions of their kind, record companies have filed suit against four people for infringing the companies' copyrights by sharing mp3 files through peer to peer networks. The full text of one of these lauwsuits is here.

 
I fixed the code. The check box to open new windows when linking is working again. Please use it.

Talking about war
 
I got this from Wil Wheaton and then found it again on Ruminate This.

How many have had conversations like this over the past few months? I know that I have had some.
PeaceNik: Why did you say we are we invading Iraq?

WarMonger: We are invading Iraq because it is in violation of security council resolution 1441. A country cannot be allowed to violate security council resolutions.

PN: But I thought many of our allies, including Israel, were in violation of more security council resolutions than Iraq.

WM: It's not just about UN resolutions. The main point is that Iraq could have weapons of mass destruction, and the first sign of a smoking gun could well be a mushroom cloud over NY.

PN: Mushroom cloud? But I thought the weapons inspectors said Iraq had no nuclear weapons.

WM: Yes, but biological and chemical weapons are the issue.

PN: But I thought Iraq did not have any long range missiles for attacking us or our allies with such weapons.

WM: The risk is not Iraq directly attacking us, but rather terrorists networks that Iraq could sell the weapons to.

PN: But couldn't virtually any country sell chemical or biological materials? We sold quite a bit to Iraq in the eighties ourselves, didn't we?

WM: That's ancient history. Look, Saddam Hussein is an evil man that has an undeniable track record of repressing his own people since the early eighties. He gasses his enemies. Everyone agrees that he is a power-hungry lunatic murderer.

PN: We sold chemical and biological materials to a power-hungry lunatic murderer?

WM: The issue is not what we sold, but rather what Saddam did. He is the one that launched a pre-emptive first strike on Kuwait.

PN: A pre-emptive first strike does sound bad. But didn't our ambassador to Iraq, April Gillespie, know about and green-light the invasion of Kuwait?

WM: Let's deal with the present, shall we? As of today, Iraq could sell its biological and chemical weapons to Al Quaida. Osama BinLaden himself released an audio tape calling on Iraqis to suicide-attack us, proving a partnership between the two.

PN: Osama Bin Laden? Wasn't the point of invading Afghanistan to kill him?

WM: Actually, it's not 100% certain that it's really Osama Bin Laden on the tapes. But the lesson from the tape is the same: there could easily be a partnership between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein unless we act.

PN: Is this the same audio tape where Osama Bin Laden labels Saddam a secular infidel?
There is much more. Read the whole conversation here.

Thursday, April 3
Iraq attack, almost in 2001
 
BushCo apparently wanted to attack Iraq after the September 11th attacks. BushCo came into office wanting to attack Iraq. September 11th would be a good excuse for an attack. However, there was no connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq, but BushCo didn't care. Tony Blair cared. According to the BBC, Blair convinced BushCo to focus on Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Afghanistan first.
But, said Sir Christopher Meyer, when Mr Blair met the US president at his Camp David retreat a few days [after 9/11] he successfully argued for al-Qaeda and the Taleban regime in Afghanistan to be confronted first.

"Tony Blair's view was: 'Whatever you're going to do about Iraq, you should concentrate on the job at hand and the job at hand was get al-Qaeda, give the Taleban an ultimatum',"
...
...after listening to Mr Blair's argument, Mr Bush decided to "leave Iraq for another day".
Rebuilding America's Defenses called for an attack against Iraq. The Project for a New American Century suggested that a catastrophic event was needed in order to mobilize public opinion to support at invasion of Iraq. For BushCo the attacks on September 11th were that event. It apparently didn't matter who committed the crimes. It didn't matter to BushCo if the perpetrators were punished. All that really mattered was that the U.S. establish a base in Iraq in order to protect oil interests.

Day of Action
 
It may not matter, but then again it might. If we do nothing there will be no change. If we do something we may create change. Take direct action against the war. This Monday, April 7th, is a National Day of Direct Action and Civil Disobedience to Stop the War at Home and Abroad. The forms of the protests will vary from place to place, from locality to locality. In San Francisco, Monday will be the "Day of the Wooden Spoons".

Activists will gather at the San Francisco Federal Building. They will drum with wooden spoons to express their opposition to the war against Iraq
We have chosen simple wooden spoons as a symbol of the daily domestic life of ordinary people, cooking for each other, sitting down to eat meals together. What the war against Iraq is really about is the disruption and destruction of the lives of all those mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles. They are killed directly by bombs, bullets and missiles; or indirectly by thirst, starvation, water-borne diseases, lack of medicines and medical care because the infrastructure designed to deliver food and clean water and medical treatment have been targeted and destroyed by U.S. and British bombs.

We have chosen simple wooden spoons to represent the legitimate aspirations of all people for decent lives, for wholesome food, for warm beds, for safe houses, for sustainable living.

We have chosen simple wooden spoons as an "alternative technology" to nuclear weapons and "smart" bombs, to daisy-cutters and bunker busters, to depleted uranium ammunition and fragmentation grenades and land mines and all other implements of war.

We have chosen simple wooden spoons to drum our outrage and our grief for children who have had their limbs shredded and their brains blown out. For incinerated mothers and decapitated fathers. And for all the soldiers who have given and will give their lives to defend their lands or to further the mad ambitions of a few sad, frightened and angry men whose hearts are clenched like fists and whose dreams are as dry as dust.

We have chosen simple wooden spoons to pray for the living and to remember the dead, who are always with us.


Give me a break
 
Bless this Defender of Freedom? Someone will buy this. (Link found via Mark Morford).

Wednesday, April 2
Pathetic
 
Shrub is depressed? This is news? He should be. He has gotten men, women AND children killed for his vainglorious dreams of empire. Thanks to Daily Kos for the link.

People who know Bush well say the strain of war is palpable. He rarely jokes with staffers these days and occasionally startles them with sarcastic putdowns. He's being hard on himself; he gave up sweets just before the war began. He's frustrated when armchair generals or members of his own team express doubts about U.S. military strategy. At the same time, some of his usual supporters are concerned by his insistence on sticking with the original war plan.

Interviews with a dozen friends, advisers and top aides describe a man who feels he is being tested. As might be expected from loyal aides, they portray the president as steady, tough and up to the task, someone whose usual cheer has shifted to a more serious demeanor. Their observations yield a rare inside look at how the president functions in a crisis.


Friends say the conflict is consuming Bush's days and weighing heavily on him. ''He's got that steely-eyed look, but he is burdened,'' says a friend who has spent time with the president since the war began. ''You can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. I worry about him.''
Do you think that this is supposed to make us feel sorry for him? Feel sorry for BushCo? Pathetic.

Pathetic
 
Over the next 3 years manufacturers of SUVs will have to increase the fuel efficiency of the vehicles by a whopping -- are you sitting down? -- get this, 1.5 miles per gallon. That will sure ease our dependence on oil imports. The industry says that achieving that gain will be difficult, but they'll do it. How patriotic. This will save the U.S. a mere six million barrels of oil a year -- less than three percent of what had been imported from Iraq. SF Chronicle

Mark Morford
 
Repressed sexual desires, sodomy, fear, the reasons for war and how Texas is just like Iraq. Check it out.

Tuesday, April 1
Pay Pal
 
A federal prosecutor in Missouri has accused Pay Pal, which is now owned by eBay, of violating the Patriot Act.


 
The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. Did you know that spaghetti grows on trees in Switzerland? If you don't know about this great April Fools spoof check it out.

a crazy rollercoaster ride
 
BushCo has targeted its so called "Axis of Evil". We haven't heard that term much these past few months, but it hasn't been forgotten. BushCo has plans. The foundation for the next step in those plans was laid last month when resolutions were introduced in the House and Senate "on behalf of the people of Iran." The resolutions warn of Iran's weapons of mass destruction, cite a growing democratic movement and call for regime change in Iran. The war in Iraq isn't over, but Condoleeza Rice now has publicly labelled Iran as the next target (and then North Korea).
When war ends in Iraq, the Bush administration will give ``extremely high priority'' to halting a secret nuclear-weapons program in neighboring Iran, a senior administration official said Monday.

John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, joined national security adviser Condoleezza Rice in warning that the White House sees nuclear-weapons programs in Iran and North Korea as imminent threats.

``The estimate we have of how close the Iranians are to production of nuclear weapons grows closer each day,'' said Bolton, a leading hawk within the administration.

Both Bolton and Rice, in separate speeches to the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, suggested that the Bush administration views the toppling of Saddam Hussein in Iraq as an initial response....
...
U.S. officials hope that a decisive toppling of Saddam may give pause to other nations with secret weapons programs and ``that some of these states will back off.'' San Jose Mercury News
BushCo won't negotiate directly with North Korea and it doesn't speak with Iran. BushCo feels that it doesn't need to. It carries a big stick, or more accurately, a huge stock of precision guided cruise missiles.

It sure is the end of the world as we know it....Do we feel fine?