Byrd's Brain

Monday, June 30
Rainbow Warrior Held Hostage
I am a longtime supporter of Greenpeace. There is a link to Greenpeace U.S.A. in the bar on the left of this page. Greenpeace's nonviolent actions on behalf of the planet help us all. The Rainbow Warrior is the Greenpeace flagship.

On June 13th, when Greenpeace activists aboard the Rainbow Warrior were exercising their right to peacefully protest logging shipments coming into Spain from ancient forests in Africa, they were hopeful that the Spanish government would at least listen to why protesting the shipments was necessary. Unfortunately, the wood being delivered was the by product of destructive, often illegal, logging operations, and the Spanish government did nothing to address the problem. Instead, the Spanish Government detained the Rainbow Warrior.

The Spanish government has offered to let Greenpeace buy the ship's freedom with a $343,000 bond, along with a promise to never again undertake marine actions for the environment in Spanish waters. Greenpeace can't pay fees like this and it can never promise not to protest anywhere.

Please help the Rainbow Warrior get back to the business of protecting ancient forests. Tell the authorities they can't silence environmentalists' voices.

Please act now by writing Spanish Ambassador Ruperrez to the U.S. and ask that he pressure Spanish authorities to investigate the loggers, and not hinder peaceful protests. You can send him an online letter or call the Spanish Embassy in Washington, DC at: (202) 728-2330.

Friday, June 27
are there just too many of us?
My wife and I are mostly vegetarians. We eat some organic poultry in order to expand our children's' diets. They aren't too hot on vegetables and such. We are both environmentalists too and do what we can to limit our consumption of resources, too limit our impact on the planet. AS vegetarians we eat a lot of soy. Tofu and soy milk consumption has risen. That seemed like a good thing. But clearly wherever there is money big business will follow and big business doesn't do things small. Business mechanizes production and the bigger the business the large the scale of its operation. Well soy is now a big business commodity.

And the growing of soy has led to an astronomical increase in the deforestation of the rainforest. Cattle grazing was once the big cause of deforestation. Farming was always a cause, but now forests are being raised for soy bean farming and this has accelerated the process.
The deforestation rate in Brazil's Amazon, the world's largest jungle, has jumped 40 percent, sparking alarm this week among environmentalists and a promise by the government to launch emergency measures.

"This is shocking," said Mario Monzoni, a project coordinator for Friends of the Earth group in Brazil, on Thursday. "The rate of deforestation should be falling, instead the opposite is happening."

Most of the deforestation takes place due to burning and logging to create farms, but the jump in 2002 suggests soy farming is growing rapidly in the area.

Brazil is expected to overtake U.S. soy production in a few years, making it the world's No. 1 producer of a crop that offers large profits for farmers and gives a sizable boost to Brazil's trade accounts.
Go to CNN for the full article.

I bet that Archer Daniels Midland has its tenacles in this somewhere.

from the Senate floor
More remarks from the only Senator to speak clearly, confidently and continuously in opposition to the invasion of Iraq, the absence of WMDs and the apparent cover-up following the invasion. These remarks were delivered by Sen. Robert Byrd (not me!) on the floor of the Senate on June 24th.
Mr. President, our sons and daughters who serve in uniform answered a call to duty. They were sent to the hot sands of the Middle East to fight in a war that has already cost the lives of 194 Americans, thousands of innocent civilians and unknown numbers of Iraqi soldiers. Our troops are still at risk. Hardly a day goes by that there is not another attack on the troops who are trying to restore order to a country teetering on the brink of anarchy. When are they coming home?

The President told the American people that we were compelled to go to war to secure our country from a grave threat. Are we any safer today than we were on March 18, 2003? Our nation has been committed to rebuilding a country ravaged by war and tyranny, and the cost of that task is being paid in blood and treasure every day.

It is in the compelling national interest to examine what we were told about the threat from Iraq. It is in the compelling national interest to know if the intelligence was faulty. It is in the compelling national interest to know if the intelligence was distorted.

....Well, Mr. President, this is no game. For the first time in our history, the United States has gone to war because of intelligence reports claiming that a country posed a threat to our nation. Congress should not be content to use standard operating procedures to look into this extraordinary matter. We should accept no substitute for a full, bipartisan investigation by Congress into the issue of our pre-war intelligence on the threat from Iraq and its use.

The purpose of such an investigation is not to play pre-election year politics, nor is it to engage in what some might call "revisionist history." Rather, it is to get at the truth. The longer questions are allowed to fester about what our intelligence knew about Iraq, and when they knew it, the greater the risk that the people -- the American people whom we are elected to serve -- will lose confidence in our government.

This looming crisis of trust is not limited to the public. Many of my colleagues were willing to trust the administration and vote to authorize war against Iraq. Many members of this body trusted so much that they gave the President sweeping authority to commence war. As President Reagan famously said, "Trust, but verify." Despite my opposition, the Senate voted to blindly trust the President with unprecedented power to declare war. While the reconstruction continues, so do the questions, and it is time to verify.

I have served the people of West Virginia in Congress for half a century. I have witnessed deceit and scandal, cover up and aftermath. I have seen Presidents of both parties who once enjoyed great popularity among the people leave office in disgrace because they misled the American people. I say to this administration: do not circle the wagons. Do not discourage the seeking of truth in these matters.

Mr. President, the American people have questions that need to be answered about why we went to war with Iraq. To attempt to deny the relevance of these questions is to trivialize the people's trust.

The business of intelligence is secretive by necessity, but our government is open by design. We must be straight with the American people. Congress has the obligation to investigate the use of intelligence information by the administration, in the open, so that the American people can see that those who exercise power, especially the awesome power of preemptive war, must be held accountable. We must not go down the road of cover-up. That is the road to ruin.

The entire speech is here.

Mother Jones surveys various blogs and their take on comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq.

One of the sites mentioned is Tom, where Howard Zinn finds there are undeniable parallels. "America may have exorcised its Vietnam-era ghosts in 1991, as the elder George Bush so famously declared, but the motivations that led us into Indochina -- and now Iraq -- haven't changed a bit."
"But is the 'Vietnam syndrome' really gone from the national consciousness? Is there not a fundamental similarity -- that in both instances we see the most powerful country in the world sending its armies, ships and planes halfway around the world to invade and bomb a small country for reasons which become harder and harder to justify?
The justifications were created, in both situations, by lying to the American public.
Both a Communist Vietnam and an Iraq ruled by Saddam Hussein were presented as imminent threats to American national security. There was no solid basis for this fear in either case; indeed Iraq was a country devastated by two wars and 10 years of sanctions, but the claim was useful for an administration bringing its people into a deadly war.

What was not talked about publicly at the time of the Vietnam War was something said secretly in intra-governmental memoranda -- that the interest of the United States in Southeast Asia was not the establishment of democracy, but the protection of access to the oil, tin and rubber of that region. In the Iraqi case, the obvious crucial role of oil in U.S. policy has been whisked out of sight, lest it reveal less than noble motives in the drive to war."

Thursday, June 26
Mark Fiore's latest. BushCo's EZ - Clean.

Wednesday, June 25
Drugs and More Drugs
Another study is out. How many surveys and studies are done annually anyway? We are a surveying and studying nation it seems.

All that aside, this new study says that "14 million American adults a year have episodes of major depression..., but the majority of sufferers don't get adequate treatment."

First off, the fact that millions of Americans are depressed isn't shocking. There are a vast multitude of reasons to be depressed during this age of BushCo . But then maybe this many people aren't really depressed. You see, the study was funded by drug manufacturer Eli Lilly. Do you actually expect that a drug company sponsored study would conclude that there are fewer needs for drugs?

Sounds like a specious study to me. This is little more than marketing under the guise of science.

What also bothers me about this study is that (based on the article) the study seems to focus more on the economic losses caused by depressed workers' decreased productivity; than on the societal, cultural and personal issues and problems that actually cause depression.

The gist of this study is: people are depressed, so we should drug them.

If I were a conspiracy theorist then I would add that: At least when people are drugged they are more complacent and acquiescent. These people are much easier to control. Shades of the old Soviet Union.

Here is the article.

Tuesday, June 24
The Weekend
I was a little nervous when this past weekend began. It was Saturday in particular that had me nervous. My wife and our children did our usual Saturday morning routine. We ate breakfast and then went out early for a round of garage sales to look for toys for the kids, furniture that we could use or an interesting nicknack that we just had to have. These sales are perfect for those children’s items that will be outgrown quickly. A toy that cost $5 at a garage sale that has a useful life only while a baby is crawling for instance, is much more practical that buying that same item for $35 new. Besides this way the item is reused, and if it is still usable when we are finished, we’ll pass it on to friends or sell it again at our own garage sale.

I was nervous because at 10:00 am, I remember the time well; my wife drove off in her car to visit her parents. I was left at home with our two-and-half-year-old girl and our nine-month-old boy. I have been away a few nights after our son was born, but my wife had never been gone overnight. My mother-in-law had had knee surgery and my wife wanted to see her and help her parents around the house. They live two hours away so she had to be gone over night to really be any help.

I was ready for the challenge, but admittedly nervous as I watched my wife drive away. Sure she handles two kids every day, but for me this would be new.

I told my daughter that we would go to the park. She was excited about that. With that decision made I had to get ready to go. Let’s see, I had to get snacks – O’s, dried fruit, crackers, juice and water packed in bags, jars and bottles. I had to get a bottle ready for my son. I had to change his diaper before we left and make sure that diapers and wipes were in the diaper bag. I had to make sure that our daughter used the potty before we went out. I had to put sunscreen on both children. Then I had to load our son into the double stroller, strap him in and then buckle our daughter in the back of the stroller. Now, with a large diaper bag full of supplies hanging from one of my shoulders, we were ready to venture out.

The walk to the park was nice. The toddler in the back of a double stroller sits looking backward, facing the pushing parent. That seemed weird to me at first, but it turns out to be a great design. She and I could talk during our walk. If she wanted to face forward she could stand up and use a pair of handholds.

The park worked out well. I am always nervous when there are bigger kids on the play structures. I get anxious about whether they will play nicely with my daughter. Three boys were there with their dads. The boys were climbing over everything and sliding down the slides, but their dads were very aware of my daughter and made sure that she could play too. My son spent most of our park time sitting in stroller in the shade quietly snacking on crackers and O’s. He got fussy toward the end of our visit, but his bottle quieted him down. He seemed to enjoy watching his sister play and he watched each rise and fall while I pushed her -- for 15 minutes -- in a swing.

Back home I prepared lunch. My daughter said she wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She helped me make hers – commenting that mom puts less jelly on it. Then I made one for myself. I got her in her high chair with her sandwich and some fruit. Then, while I ate my sandwich, I fed my son rice cereal, mashed fruit and sweet potatoes (his favorite). He ate okay, but not great. (He is teething again with his ninth tooth on the way.) My daughter, I noticed was tearing her sandwich apart and only eating the half with peanut butter. She complained that there was too much jelly. I showed her that my own sandwich was dripping with jelly too -- that's the way that I like it, but I had learned. I would make her sandwich like mommy does, in the future.

Nap times for both children went well and dinner went well, although my daughter didn't eat everything again. She wasn’t starving, but you like to see your children eat well. My daughter was very good about keeping busy while I put her brother to bed for the night. I gave him a bottle. Rocked him and sang some songs. We do this every night as his pre-bed ritual. I put him in his crib and patted him to soothe him. He usually cries when he realizes that it is bed time. I left him and prepared to listen to his crying. I would come back in ten minutes to soothe him if he was still upset.

I walked downstairs to join my daughter, but something was different. My son had quieted within minutes. I could hear no crying. That was unexpected. The quiet was nice, but admittedly it made me -- the nervous parent -- a little anxious. My wife is gone for a night and the children are hurt... A little later, I must admit, I peaked into his room to make sure that he was breathing. He was. Whew.

I read books to my daughter and told stories. Then we brushed her teeth and I sang some songs. That is the nighttime ritual for her, but lately she has been too excited to fall asleep wuickly. This night, however, she too went to sleep quickly and without protest.

The next morning we all were up at 6 am. My children are early risers. I prepared breakfast. We all ate well. My son went down for a nap and my daughter and I played with her wooden train, built tunnels with legos and wooden blocks and played catch. She had one really good toss. The ball arced perfectly and was thrown directly into my hands. This was quite an accomplishment, one that we hope she can repeat soon.

My wife returned home before lunch. Everything had gone well, but I was relieved that my wife was back. And so were the two children, they swarmed around her and wouldn't let go. When she extracated herself from them she quickly made lunch for our son. About the same things that I had made, but with a little more variety. And then she made lunch for our daughter -- buttered whole wheat tortilla, cheese and apple slices. I thought that I had done well with the meals, but I noticed that my wife cut the torilla into shapes. The tortilla was now a herd of buttered cows. They were heading toward the apple slices (an orchard) but had to eat the cheese fence first.

I had served my daughter a similar meal that she had picked at, but this meal my daughter ate quickly and cleaned her plate!

I served meals. My wife served her a story along with the meal.

Monday, June 23
Dean Declares
There are two presidential candidates that I support -- Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich. They both have weblogs that are included in the blogroll on the left. The Kucinich blog is updated by the candidate himself and the Dean blog is maintained by staffers. Both are informative and worth visiting frequently.

Howard Dean officially declared his candidacy for President today. The text of his speech is here.

honey, do as mommy says...
The mother of 14 year-old twins drove her daughters to the bank so that they could hold it up. They used a toy gun. They stole $3,050.

Rand Beers
After thirty-five years in intelligence, Rand Beers, a career public servant quit. He had a National Security Council job as special assistant to the "president" for combating terrorism. He now is national security adviser for Sen. Kerry. Beers knows a lot about BushCo's inaction in the war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq. What he has to say only confirms what those of us in cyberspace have already known.
They're making us less secure, not more secure," said Beers, who until now has remained largely silent about leaving his National Security Council job as special assistant to the president for combating terrorism. "As an insider, I saw the things that weren't being done. And the longer I sat and watched, the more concerned I became, until I got up and walked out."
The full article is here.

Friday, June 20
We have a Verdict
I just spent the last three days in court as a juror on a car accident case. Liability was admitted. Our job was to decide damages. The jury was picked on Tuesday afternoon. Becasue of my background I was quite surprised to be picked, but I have always wanted to be on a jury. We listened to witnesses testify all day Wednesday. We heard from the plaintiff -- a twelve year old girl, her parents, a chiropractor and an accident reconstruction expert. After each witness had testified, the judge let the jurors write down questions that we wanted to be asked. He and the attorneys would review them and the relevant questions were used. It seemed odd at first, but it was a good way to keep the jurors engaged. If we had questions, then we must be listening. Yesterday morning we heard closing arguments from the attorneys and the jury instructions from the judge. I was quite impressed with my fellow jurors, besides picking me to be the Foreman, they impressed me with how seriously everyone took the trial. The jurors were variously bored, didn't want to be there and having fun. But no matter what their background, or their desire to serve, each juror had opinions and cared about reaching the right verdict. This wasn't surprising to me, but it was heartening to see. The jury system does work.

The plaintiff was 9 at the time of the accident in 1999. The car she was riding in was rearended. She was in the middle of a bench seat and only had a lap belt to wear. She was thrown forward and back by the impact. She felt okay that day, but was increasingly sore in the few days following the accident. Her family physician gave her some exercises to do and told her to take Advil. That didn't help so she went to a chiropractor. He treated her for 9 months. A year later the girl was still having trouble sleeping so her parents bought her a special orthopedic mattress. Her chiropractic and physical therapy expenses totaled $3800. The mattress that was purchased a year later cost $500.

The plaintiff asked for $25,000 and the defense offered $5,000.

We felt that she had been injured and that she was no longer injured. The issue for us was determining when her injuries had stopped. We were all agreed that she should be awarded her medical expenses of $3800, with some additional for pain and suffering. The main debate centered around whether the mattress was reasonably related to the accident. After a discussion we all agreed that she should be reimbursed for the mattress, but a minority didn't think that that mattress should be used to determine the pain and suffering amount. We had two numbers. The highest used all the expenses in the pain and suffering award and the lower number did not. The difference between the two was only about $1500. We went around the room so that everyone had a chance to voice their opinion on the two possibilities. I confirmed everyone's vote by a show of hands. We had a verdict, 9 - 3.

We awarded the twelve year old girl $13,011.

Thursday, June 19
Jury Duty
Jury Duty continues at least through today.

Wednesday, June 18
The TV Repair Man Knows More Than You
The science of plasma television screens is beyond my comprehension. We don't have a plasma screen TV, but they are becoming increasingly common. I find it amazing that we have items in our homes that have become or will become commonplace, and most of us can't fathom how or why they work. Most of us just accept that these things work. If they break, we usually just toss them out and get a new one, as we have no idea how they work or how to fix them. At one time, people could explain everything they had. If they had a candle, they understood that wax burned, and they could make another one when needed. In simpler times, the stove was woodburning, it might even have been a fireplace. One could cut wood for the fire and lay bricks to build or rebuild a fireplace. Heat in a home was generated by the fire and air conditioning was obtained by opening the windows. If one can understand how things in the world work, it has to affect one's psyche in a way unknown to a person who lives with things that they can't explain, whose operation they accept at face value.

Do you think that if you are used to understanding how things work in your world, that you would ask more questions about things, about new things, in order to understand how those new things worked? For instance, if you used a fireplace and then got a wood stove, you would want to know what happens when you open the door or remove one of the burner lids. You would need to understand how the wood stove functioned in order to get the most use out of it. Do you think that this same person would also ask questions about how things in the world worked? Would you imagine that someone who is used to finding out the answers would want to to know why a politician did or didn't do something, for instance? Do you think that that person might question political motives and results?

Conversely, most of us today use things that we can't understand. Do you really understand the bits and bytes, ones and zeros of your computer? Do you understand how spell check works? Could you fix your TV if it broke? Could you explain how a TV remote works? Would you fix it if it broke? We have learned to accept things that we don't understand. In fact, we have come to rely on things that we don't understand. Has this unquestioning reliance and acceptance changed the way that people think? Are we perhaps less critical as a people because we have become reliant on other people to provide us with the things that we like and need? If we don't question and learn to understand how a plasma television works, for instance, are we also less likely to question what the "president" says. Does unquestioning and reliance on things beyond our control cause us to question fewer things in our lives?

If the part of our brain that does critical analysis - problem solving - is left dormant in one part of life, does it become dormant in other aspects through lack of use?

Manufacturers take gas - usually a mixture of xenon and neon - and pump it into millions of tiny cells sealed between two flat pieces of glass. Electricity, sent through an array of electrodes, excites the gas, resulting in a discharge of ultraviolet light. The light in turn strikes a phosphor coating on the inside of the glass, creating red, blue or green visible light. Combining the three colors in every pixel while varying the amount of electricity introduced across the plasma layer creates the subtle color nuances seen in typical television images.

A plasma display, said Larry Weber, president of Panasonic's plasma display division, is "basically no more than a million little fluorescent lamps.'' Each lamp has three different colors - red, blue, or green - and 256 levels of intensity. "We actually change the intensity 60 times a second," he said. "You see the image because all the lamps are flashing on and off so quickly." NYTimes (password/id: "rbyrd", available 2 days)

Jury Duty
I was picked for a jury yesterday. I'm looking forward to the trial. I didn't expect to be picked since I have been called for jury duty every two years on average over the last 20 years and I have always been excused. This is a two or three day civil trial. A perfect length. I am happy to do my civic duty. Besides, everyone fears being selected for a long trial, but a couple days won't cause me to change my schedule too much. But it does mean that I won't be able to blog much, so blogging will continue to be light.

Tuesday, June 17
Jury Duty
I have jury duty today. There will be no blogging.

Monday, June 16
It is War
At times, I have referred to the conflict with BushCo as "war". We have discussed BushCo's multi-faceted assault on liberal beliefs and values and characterized BushCo's actions as akin to battles in a war. Some readers of this blog have taken issues with that term. They are wrong, whether we know it or not, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we are at war in this country. Liberals had better wake up and begin fighting this war. If BushCo succeeds, as seems possible at this point, then we will lose everything. This article by Neil Gabler, in the LA Times, makes the point perfectly clear. BushCo is intent on destroying the democratic party and all that it stands for.
From the moment of his disputed election in 2000, President Bush has been dramatically reversing the traditional relationship between politics and policy. In his administration, politics seem less a means to policy than policy is a means to politics. Its goal is not to further the conservative revolution as advertised. The presidency's real goal is to disable the Democratic opposition, once and for all.

This has become a presidential mission partly by default. Bush came to the presidency with no commanding ideology, no grand crusade. He was in league with conservatives, but he was no fire-breather. For him, conservatism seemed a convenience — the only path to the Republican nomination. One is hard-pressed to think of a single position Bush took during the 2000 campaign, save for his tax cuts, much less a full program.

.....Still, Rove has had something more up his sleeve than lining up support for his master's reelection. Rove's genius — and the true genius of this administration — is that he (and it) recognizes that political machinations don't have to be ancillary to policy. If Rove's mission is to ensure Bush's reelection and the formation of a GOP electoral monolith, he wants to devise policies that not only appeal to the party's core voters. They should also disable the Democratic Party from contesting elections. This is government expressly designed for its own self-perpetuation — government designed to undermine the political process.

Rove's template for his new idea of governance is "tort reform" — enacting laws that will reduce jury awards for various malfeasances, from product liability to medical malpractice. According to Lemann, this was Rove's earliest legislative crusade in Texas. To this day, Republicans insist that businesses have been unfairly burdened by excessive jury awards, but the political reason this has become a fervent GOP cause is that trial lawyers contribute heavily to the Democratic Party. Choke off their income and you choke off a major source of Democratic money.

Similarly, the president's huge tax cuts have been touted both as an economic stimulus and a way to shrink the federal government by denying it future revenues to spend. The latter goal was also Reagan's when he pushed tax cuts more than 20 years ago. Reagan genuinely believed that government was bad. It was a central tenet of his ideology. But for this nonideological administration, there's an overriding political reason to scale back government: Federal workers and employee unions are among the biggest contributors to the Democratic Party. Forget the economy. Tax cuts hit the Democrats where it hurts: right in the wallet.

The list goes on. Bush's flirtation with school vouchers is called a way to improve education, but vouchers also would politically disempower teachers unions, another source of Democratic funding and support. The regulations issued last week by the Federal Communications Commission, allowing media conglomerates to own more television stations, are said to foster competition. But they are also a means to empower conservative voices like that of Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News often seems like an adjunct of the Bush White House. The faith-based initiative — moving social services from government and community organizations to religious ones — is portrayed as a way to make delivery of such services more efficient. Politically, it would undermine more liberal-oriented community institutions and advocates that might aid the Democrats.

The administration's conservative judicial appointments are hailed as necessary to ensure a strict interpretation of the Constitution. But they are also a political means not only to disable laws — like the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act — that favor Democrats by regulating fund-raising, but also to make laws that will aid Republicans in a host of areas, from the environment to product safety to redistricting. The administration brief opposing affirmative action was issued in the name of fairness but is also a long-range political plan to slow the growth of a minority professional class that would be likely to vote Democratic. And attempts to privatize Medicare and Social Security in the name of freedom of choice are really a blow aimed at the base of the Democratic Party, because these programs are most identified with Democrats and are still a reliable source of goodwill for the party. In each case, the ideological façade hides the political goal.

This magical turn of policy into politics is no less applicable to foreign affairs. The administration claimed the Iraq war was fought to disarm Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction and to prevent the Iraqi dictator from aiding terrorists. But as a political matter, the war struck the Democratic Party at one of its vulnerabilities: the idea that Democrats are weak on defense. The president's sudden interest in brokering a Palestinian-Israeli peace also bears Rove's fingerprints. For a man who has formulas measuring the potential effect on voting of every presidential decision, he knows a Middle East peace could pry Jewish voters and contributors from the Democratic Party.

Unfortunately, I find all of Gabler's conclusions quite plausible. This isn't politics as usual. Can you salute and say, "Heil GOP"?

Friday, June 13

BushCo falling off his Segway.

Pro-life and a Molester
A rabid anti-abortion protester was arrested on charges that he molested a 15-year-old girl at a home that he operates for troubled girls and women. Police are questioning other women in the home in a search for other victims. Do you sense the tragic irony here? Or do you see the pattern? I have always been troubled that the most vocal of the pro-lifers tend to also support the death penalty. How can that be? How do you make sense of that? It makes sense if the true goal is power. (Ready for a little pop psychology this morning...?) A person might be pro-life because one wants to control women. That same person could favor the death penalty because an execution is the ultimate show of power over another. This desire for power over another explains this man's behavior.

He supports violence in opposition to abortion because he wants to control women at any cost. He runs a shelter for women because he wants to control them more than he wants to help them. Then he molests young girls because he can control them -- he clearly doesn't care about them.

Note: This entry was edited slightly after its initial posting.

Thursday, June 12
It's the Economy, Stupid
As the euphoria from the "victory" in Iraq fades and the realities of a dismal economy set in, BushCo's approval rating has declined.
Bush's approval rating has dropped to 57 percent from 73 percent since April as voters soured on his handling of the economy, a poll published on Wednesday showed.

The Quinnipiac University survey revealed that nearly twice as many American voters were more concerned about the sagging economy than about the possibility of terrorist attacks in the United States. NYTimes password/id= "rbyrd", good for 7 days.
It's the economy, stupid. We all have to eat. Tax cuts that gut government services and hemorrhage the deficit won't feed us for long.

WMD Finder
Mark Fiore on finding those elusive WMDs. If you are new to Mark Fiore be sure to check out his earlier cartoons on this site.

Wednesday, June 11
we all need a good hug
and she, is giving them, usually as many as 1200 a day.

Exotic Animals
Whatever happened to being satisfied with a dog or a cat as a pet? Why do people need to have an exotic pet? Are pets the same as any other craze? Do people now need to have the latest and greatest and most exotic pet? Does this have something to do with "competing with the Joneses"? Why does someone need to have a prairie dog as a pet? Why does someone need to have a Giant Gambian Rat as a pet? Are North American rats too boring? The Gambian Rat is a rat. It and the prairies dog are rodents. Rodents carry disease. Rodents from other countries carry diseases from other countries. These well travelled rats infected the prairie dogs and now we have a problem with Monkeypox. All because people needed to have the latest and greatest and most exotic.

These rats travelled a long way to get to the midwest. Does that make sense? What happens if these exotic pets get loose in the wild and breed? Do they takeover and change the ecosystem?

Why does it not surprise me that Texas figures prominently in this story?
is focusing attention on a thriving cottage industry in Texas, where a handful of operators catch thousands of the rodents and ship them to pet stores around the nation

.....They are also tracking a shipment of about 50 Gambian rats that a Texas importer received from Africa.

Finally, we need to remember that these Gambian Rats and prairie dogs are living creatures, not collectibles.

Tuesday, June 10
7000 people gathered in Barcelona and posed nude for photographs. It is difficult to organize 100 people. How do you get 7000 people to strip off their clothes and assume the fetal position in a public square?

Monday, June 9
Pew Report on America's Oceans
BushCo's record continues to get bleaker. But few are paying attention.

Now a Pew report catalogs threats to U.S. seas. The threats range from agricultural drainage that has created a "dead zone" where the Mississippi River empties into the Gulf of Mexico; to sprawling coastal development that is fouling thousands of acres of vital habitat for young fish; to overfishing that has decimated stocks of rockfish on the Pacific coast and cod and other species on the Atlantic coast; to pollution from cruise ships;to millions of gallons of oily pavement runoff; and to hordes of invasive species that threaten native species.

This report, coupled with the Nature magazine report, last month -- that said that commercial fishing had wiped out 90 percent of the world's populations of large fish such as tuna and swordfish -- show quite clearly that U.S., waterways are being destroyed and if current practices are unabated, they will be destroyed. This is a crisis.
America’s oceans are in crisis and the stakes could not be higher. More than half the U.S. population lives in coastal counties. The resident population in this area is expected to increase by 25 million people by 2015. More than 180 million people visit the shore for recreation every year.

Though a price tag has never been assigned to our coastal economy, it is clear that it contributes significantly to the nation’s overall economic activity. Tens of thousands of jobs in fishing, recreation, and tourism depend on healthy, functioning coastal ecosystems. Now, thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment have either been lost or are jeopardized by collapsing fisheries. Pollution and sprawl threaten ocean-related tourism and recreation, far and away the largest component of the coastal economy.

But more than jobs are at stake. All Americans depend on the oceans and affect the oceans, regardless of where they live. Ocean currents circulate the energy and water that regulate the Earth’s climate and weather and, thus, affect every aspect of the human experience. Our very dependence on and use of ocean resources are exposing limits in natural systems once viewed as too vast and inexhaustible to be harmed by human activity. Without reform, our daily actions will increasingly jeopardize a valuable natural resource and an invaluable aspect of our national heritage.

......The root cause of this crisis is a failure of both perspective and governance. We have failed to conceive of the oceans as our largest public domain, to be managed holistically for the greater public good in perpetuity. Our oceans span nearly 4.5 million square miles,*2 an area 23 percent larger than the nation’s land area. Similarly, we have only begun to recognize how vital our oceans and coasts are to our economy as well as to the cultural heritage of our nation. Finally, we have come too slowly to recognize the interdependence of land and sea and how easily activities far inland can disrupt the many benefits provided by coastal ecosystems.

......The fundamental conclusion of the Pew Oceans Commission is that this nation needs to ensure healthy, productive, and resilient marine ecosystems for present and future generations. In the long term, economic sustainability depends on ecological sustainability. To achieve and maintain healthy ecosystems requires that we change our perspective and extend an ethic of stewardship and responsibility toward the oceans. Most importantly, we must treat our oceans as a public trust. The oceans are a vast public domain that is vitally important to our environmental and economic security as a nation. The public has entrusted the government with the stewardship of our oceans, and the government should exercise its authority with a broad sense of responsibility toward all citizens and their long-term interests.
Pew Report Executive Summary

Here are some of the Pew report's more significant recommendations:
• Congress should establish an independent "national oceans agency" outside the Commerce Department -- where weather, oceanography and fishery management agencies now reside -- to unify those and many other agencies that now have some say over the seas.

• Congress should pass a National Ocean Policy Act creating "regional ecosystem councils" to enforce ocean protection and restoration. These councils would supplement the eight existing councils that now advise the commerce secretary on regulation of commercial fishing.

• Congress should mandate a national system of marine reserves where fishing and other human activities would be banned.

• Congress should consider using offshore oil and gas revenue to buy and protect critical coastal habitat from development.

• Congress should ban expansion of Lower 48 fish farms until a national aquaculture policy and standards are developed.

The full Pew Report on America's Oceans

Star Spangled Ice Cream
Forget about that wacko leftie (Unilever owned) "Ben and Jerry's" stuff, now there is right wing ice cream to satisfy your hunger.

Friday, June 6
John Dean (yes, that John Dean) lays out the case that BushCo should be impeached if there were never any credible threats of WMDs.
President George W. Bush has got a very serious problem. Before asking Congress for a Joint Resolution authorizing the use of American military forces in Iraq, he made a number of unequivocal statements about the reason the United States needed to pursue the most radical actions any nation can undertake - acts of war against another nation.

Now it is clear that many of his statements appear to be false. In the past, Bush's White House has been very good at sweeping ugly issues like this under the carpet, and out of sight. But it is not clear that they will be able to make the question of what happened to Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) go away - unless, perhaps, they start another war.

....To put it bluntly, if Bush has taken Congress and the nation into war based on bogus information, he is cooked. Manipulation or deliberate misuse of national security intelligence data, if proven, could be "a high crime" under the Constitution's impeachment clause. It would also be a violation of federal criminal law, including the broad federal anti-conspiracy statute, which renders it a felony "to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose."

It's important to recall that when Richard Nixon resigned, he was about to be impeached by the House of Representatives for misusing the CIA and FBI. After Watergate, all presidents are on notice that manipulating or misusing any agency of the executive branch improperly is a serious abuse of presidential power.

Dean also has a nice series of quotes from BushCo that lay out a chronology of the pre-invasion WMD statements.
President Bush's Statements On Iraq's Weapons Of Mass Destruction

Readers may not recall exactly what President Bush said about weapons of mass destruction; I certainly didn't. Thus, I have compiled these statements below. In reviewing them, I saw that he had, indeed, been as explicit and declarative as I had recalled.

Bush's statements, in chronological order, were:

"Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons."

United Nations Address
September 12, 2002

"Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons."

"We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons -- the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have."

Radio Address
October 5, 2002

"The Iraqi regime . . . possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons."

"We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas."

"We've also discovered through intelligence that Iraq has a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas. We're concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVS for missions targeting the United States."

"The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Saddam Hussein has held numerous meetings with Iraqi nuclear scientists, a group he calls his "nuclear mujahideen" - his nuclear holy warriors. Satellite photographs reveal that Iraq is rebuilding facilities at sites that have been part of its nuclear program in the past. Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons."

Cincinnati, Ohio Speech
October 7, 2002

"Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent."

State of the Union Address
January 28, 2003

"Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."

Address to the Nation
March 17, 2003

Her Own Person
I have nieces and nephews and have been around children throughout my life, but watching your own children grow is constantly amazing. Each day brings something new. When you are with a child every day you notice each of the changes, you appreciate the slow daily progress that is made and you notice the great leaps that are occasionally made in their growth.

Our daughter, as you know if you've read this blog for a while, is two and half. Most recently, I wrote about her language explosion. Her language skills have increasingly improved and become more complex. For instance, last week she volunteered to my wife that, "her (mom's) toes (nails) are pretty when they are painted red" and that she "likes her mom in Capri pants." These are phrases that our daughter said on her own. Until recently most of what she said was a mimic of, or a close variation of, something that she had heard. She still learns from mimicking, but now she can use the words that she learns in her own way. She can express her own opinions. That is new. She is becoming an individual and it is delightful to see and hear.

Last weekend we were celebrating her grandmother's birthday. It was a big party. Relatives from all over the area converged on my in-laws. Our daughter, who used to be a little hesitant to leave our sight, was busy from the moment we arrived. She played with the dogs, she looked at the chickens (2 of them) and she played with her older cousins. She was so busy that at times my wife and I didn't know where she was. We were relieved that she could play on her own. It meant that we had more time to converse with relatives. We were also a little sad. If she could play on her own then she was becoming an individual. And if she is becoming an individual then she has begun the journey of separating from us -- a little. Another good example of this is also from last weekend.

My wife and I were weeding in the backyard, our son was in one of those "exersaucer" things that allow him to stand up -- in one place -- and play with toys that sit on a circular shelf around him (It is akin to a giant donut, with a harness where the donut hole would be.) and our daughter was playing in her sandbox. She heard the neighbor's 4 and half your old girl nearby. Our daughter called that girl's name and walked over to the fence to speak with her. They talked for 10 minutes. My wife and I were happy for our "little girl", but to watch her brought tears of joy and sadness to our eyes. She was growing up and ever so slowly growing away from us.

It is what we want for her, but we are filled with conflicting emotions.

This parent thing is difficult. How do so many people do it?

Thursday, June 5
Entertaining the troops...
A Nevada brothel is offering free sex to troops returning from the US invasion of Iraq. Apparently, so far, thirteen men and three women in uniform have shown up to claim their gifts. What would Bob Hope say?

Human nature?

The Sims
The computer game "The Sims" has an online version in which players can play out their fantasies. Online "The Sims" has no police department so some people run a protection racket and others have taken the law into their own hands.
It's a violent twist for "The Sims,'' the dollhouse-inspired computer game that has long been portrayed as the antithesis to guns-'n-gore bestsellers like "Grand Theft Auto.'' The emergence of a seedy underbelly in the online game may reveal more about the dark fantasies of middle-aged suburbanites than anyone suspected.

50,000 snakes
Thousands of tourists, who have trekked three miles on foot, come annually to watch the month long spectacle of 50,000 snakes coming out of hibernation. The main attraction is to watch when dozens of sex-crazed males wrap themselves around females in hopes of getting chosen to mate.

Wednesday, June 4
The headline is "Blair in Hotter Water Than Bush Over WMDs". No surprise there. The Brits aren't sheep like most Americans. They seem to read and think and they have more diverse national media outlets -- the BBC, the Guardian and the London Times to name a few. Brits seem to still be able to think critically and to form opinions. Finally, they still speak their mind very much unlike the herd mentality that is pervasive in the U.S.

Tony Blair had to respond to complaints about intelligence lapses and overhyping WMDs during debate in the House of Commons. Can you imagine BushCo debating?

Tuesday, June 3
Pew Center Survey
The Pew Center has released the results of another survey of world opinion, including views of the United States. The news isn't good. The U.S. led invasion of Iraq has weakened support for the UN, inflamed the Islamic world and diluted support for the war on terrorism. In other words, BushCo has destabilized the world, set back international relations and lowered the esteem of the U.S. in the eyes of the world. Bravo George. All this was done in just a couple of months. Just think what BushCo can accomplish with the rest of its term.
since last summer, favorable opinions of the U.S have slipped in nearly every country for which trend measures are available. Views of the American people, while still largely favorable, have fallen as well. The belief that the U.S. pursues a unilateralist foreign policy, which had been extensive last summer, has only grown in the war's aftermath. In Great Britain and Italy, positive opinions of the U.S. increased considerably since just before the war (see page 19). Of the 21 publics surveyed in the new poll, overall support for the United States is greatest by far in Israel, where 79% view the U.S. favorably. Israelis also express near-universal support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism, with 85% favoring the fight against terrorism. Majorities in Western Europe and Australia also back the war on terrorism, but support has slipped since last summer in both France and Germany (15 points in France, 10 points in Germany).

In addition, the bottom has fallen out of support for America in most of the Muslim world. Negative views of the U.S. among Muslims, which had been largely limited to countries in the Middle East, have spread to Muslim populations in Indonesia and Nigeria. Since last summer, favorable ratings for the U.S. have fallen from 61% to 15% in Indonesia and from 71% to 38% among Muslims in Nigeria.

In the wake of the war, a growing percentage of Muslims see serious threats to Islam. Specifically, majorities in seven of eight Muslim populations surveyed express worries that the U.S. might become a military threat to their countries. Even in Kuwait, where people have a generally favorable view of the United States, 53% voice at least some concern that the U.S. could someday pose a threat.

Support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism also has fallen in most Muslim publics. Equally significant, solid majorities in the Palestinian Authority, Indonesia and Jordan – and nearly half of those in Morocco and Pakistan – say they have at least some confidence in Osama bin Laden to "do the right thing regarding world affairs." Fully 71% of Palestinians say they have confidence in bin Laden in this regard.

More generally, the postwar update survey of 16,000 respondents finds, in most countries that are friendly to the United States, only modest percentages have confidence that President Bush will do the right thing in international affairs. People in most countries rate Vladimir Putin, Gerhard Schroeder, Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair more highly than they do Bush. The president also ranks slightly behind Blair in the United States, mostly due to political partisanship. Nearly all Republicans (95%) express confidence in Bush, compared with 64% of Democrats.
Did you get that? More people in the Muslim world think that Osama bin Laden "will do the right thing" than think that BushCo "will do the right thing." Maybe that isn't surprising, but it doesn't bode well for the war on terrorism.
The broad desire for democracy in Muslim countries and elsewhere is but one indication of the global acceptance of ideas and principles espoused by the United States. The major survey also shows that the free market model has been embraced by people almost everywhere, whether in Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, or Asia. Majorities in 33 of the 44 nations surveyed feel that people are better off in a free-market economy, even if that leads to disparities in wealth and income. Despite the protests in recent years against globalization and America's role in fostering it, people are surprisingly accepting of the increased interconnectedness that defines globalization.

This is not to say that they accept democracy and capitalism without qualification, or that they are not concerned about many of the problems of modern life. By and large, however, the people of the world accept the concepts and values that underlie the American approach to governance and business.

Americans are much more likely than Europeans to believe that most people who fail in life have them-selves to blame, rather than society.
Yet there are profound differences in the way Americans and people in other countries – especially Western Europeans – view such fundamental issues as the limits of personal freedom and the role of government in helping the poor. Americans are more individualistic and favor a less compassionate government than do Europeans and others. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) believe success is not outside of their control. Except for Canadians (63%), most of the world disagrees. Among 44 nations surveyed, the U.S. has one of the highest percentages of people who think that most people who fail in life have themselves to blame, rather than society.

Accordingly, Americans care more about personal freedom than government assurances of social justice. Fully 58% of Americans say it is more important to have the freedom to pursue personal goals without government interference, while just 34% say it is more important for government to guarantee that no one is in need. In most other nations, majorities embrace the opposite view. And while most Americans support a social safety net, they are less strongly committed than other peoples to their government taking care of citizens who cannot take care of themselves.
These quotes are from the report. You can read the full report here.

(errata: A reader pointed out that as this was originally published, I had misconstrued the Pew Center's conclusions as to who trusted bin Laden or Bush. I left out a key word --"Muslim". As originally published, with the word "Muslim" omitted it read as if the entire world trusted bin Laden more than Bush. The correction has been made. "Muslim" has been more accurately inserted -- in bold -- above. mjs: Thanks for the help!)

Double Speak
Via Lean Left I found this excellent chronology of BushCo administration quotes regarding creating a democratic government in Iraq. Those promises of building democracy can be easily seen sliding down the proverbial slippery slope from democracy to U.S. occupation. It is amazing how the BushCo folks consistently speak the doublespeak party line. No matter how much things have changed, no matter how different the reality is from what was promised the Bushniks consistently say that "nothing has changed". It is as if they know that few people will question them. It is as if they know that few people will recall what was said previously.

Whiskey Bar proves the lie and sheds light on the spin.

Monday, June 2
TiVo, the digital television recorder company, was lambasted in the past for sharing its customers' television viewing data. Consumers rightly screamed that it was an invasion of privacy. Now TiVo is going to sell customer data again. This is important because TiVo knows what you watch, when you watch it and whether you watch or skip any given commercial. For instance, TiVo data has shown that the Pepsi ad featuring Britney Spears during the 2002 Super Bowl was the most watched commercial during the game. TiVo executives have said that they will be gathering information only in aggregate, such as by ZIP code. The habits of individual users will remain anonymous, but the potential always remains for releasing individual data in the future. One wonders whether this selling of aggregate data is but the first step down a slippery slope.

"Bush Is Great"
We will be hearing that a lot more.

This morning the, Michael Powell led, FCC approved 3-2, along party lines -- with the two Democratic commissioners dissenting, the conglomeration of television stations and newspapers. This consolidation makes a bad situation worse. (I've written about it here and here.) Rupert Murdoch must be laughing all the way to the bank. FOX was ardently pro war and is a strong supporter of BushCo. We can expect FOX to praise Bush and denigrate the Democrats as the election approaches. Most Americans get their news from TV, thus we should anticipate that most Americans won't know who the Democratic rivals are and will think that BushCo is doing a dandy job.

BushCo works on all fronts. This FCC decision is one of the first salvos in the BushCo re-election campaign.

(A postscript. Media giants are hailing this decision as a victory. That confirms my fears. Do you hear any "little guys" cheering?