Byrd's Brain

Friday, August 29
Diet: Day 12!
Weight: 169.8 pounds. Yippee. Just barely (and depending on how I still I stand) I got into the 160's.

Breakfast: eggs and veggie Canadian bacon, spicy V-8 and coffee. Hummus and fresh vegetables snack.
Lunch: pistachio nut salad. Mid-afternoon snack, string cheese.
Dinner: Salmon and green beans. Dessert: ricotta cream.

The food on this diet is working out better for me than my wife. It is not that she isn't losing weight, she is, but she is getting extremely bored with the menu repetitions. I on the other hand have no problem with the repetition. I could eat the same food for days before I "needed" to have variety. She prefers to eat different things each day. The difference makes me feel like such a guy -- just give me food!

Mrs Byrd is counting the days until we start "phase 2" of the South Beach Diet. (3 days to go) She wants Monday's breakfast: oatmeal and fresh strawberries.

biometric id cards
Britain is planning on testing the gathering and use of biometric information in conjunction with its issuance of passports. Is this the first step on the path to biometric national identity cards?

Civil War?
With the latest car bombing and the U.S. inability to do anything right, can civil war in Iraq be that far away?

I love the internet...
Do you judge people by how they look? Can you tell a computer programmer from a homicidal maniac? Take this quiz and find out.

iQuotes -- Recall Humor
President Bush is supporting Arnold, but a lot of Republicans are not, because he is actually quite liberal. Karl Rove said if his (Arnold's) father wasn't a Nazi, he wouldn't have any credibility with conservatives at all.

-- Bill Maher

Finally, a candidate who can explain the Bush administration's positions on civil liberties in the original German.

-- Bill Maher

No privacy
Get Karl Rove's home address and social security number for $26.
Almost everything is for sale on the Internet - even the Social Security numbers of top government officials like CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft, consumer advocates warned Wednesday.

The California-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights said for $26 each it was able to purchase the Social Security numbers and home addresses for Tenet, Ashcroft and other top Bush administration officials, including Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser.

That illustrates the need for stronger protections of personal information, the group said.

The CIA declined to comment, and calls to the Justice Department were not immediately returned.

Specifically, the foundation is concerned about legislation in the House that would amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The bill, sponsored by Reps. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., Darlene Hooley, D-Ore., and dozens of other members, aims to prevent identity theft and improve the accuracy of consumer records, among other things.

While backing the overall goals of the bill, the group's executive director, Jamie Court, objected to a portion of it that would continue a current pre-emption of tougher state privacy laws.

California Gov. Gray Davis signed such legislation Wednesday, which allows consumers to block companies from sharing personal information with affiliate businesses.

"Banks and insurers should not be able to go to Washington as an end-run around the most protective state privacy laws," Court said.Findlaw

Thursday, August 28
Mrs. Byrd and I spent the morning at our (soon to be 3) daughter's future preschool. It was parent orientation. The school is a co-op. This means that the parents have to work twice each month as a teacher. The parents are supervised by 2 full-time staff members and 7 parents work each session. We like this arrangement because we will get to know the other parents and the children that our daughter will play with. Also, admittedly there is a little separation anxiety for us (the parents) and spending some time at the school with our daughter will be a good transition.

We are excited about her starting school and she seems like she can't wait. She asks about it all the time. School starts in a month. In the meantime we have more training sessions and a family orientation -- when our daughter gets to ""tour" the school.

Diet: Day 11
Weight: 171.0 pounds.

Breakfast: cheese and roasted vegetable frittata spicy V-8 and coffee. String cheese snack.
Lunch: chef's salad. Mid-afternoon snack, fresh mozzarella.
Dinner: ginger chicken and snow peas. Dessert: lemon zest ricotta cream.

40 years ago today
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

Martin Luther King - Aug. 28, 1963.

Wednesday, August 27
More on THE DIET
We have two young children. They are not on the diet. They eat plenty of fruit and like to have toast and cereal too. One of the most difficult things about being on a diet is having a kitchen full of the foods that you can't eat. What makes it even harder at times is cooking, cutting up and serving these foods. Yesterday both children had toast with a very hearty whole oats nutty bread. The toast smelled great as I buttered it for them. Too, they both like melon. I adore a good melon. Based on the aroma of the cantaloupe that my children have eaten during the past week, it has no equal. Despite the appeal I haven't sneaked a bite of toast or melon......Yet.

"Sometimes when this president talks, the opposite of what he says is true and if we don't call him on it we can't win."

Howard Dean

Diet: Day 10
When we started the South Beach Diet I weighed 178.4 pounds. I wasn't statistically overweight, but it wasn't a weight that I liked. Mrs. Byrd wasn't overweight either, but she preferred less poundage too.

This morning I weighed 172.6. I have lost almost 6 pounds and am loving every minute of it. The trick will be to keep this weight off when the diet "ends", but that is an issue for the future.

Today's meals for the first time seem like diet meals. We have been eating like royalty until today. Perhaps we are being weaned off of food entirely in preparation for Phase 2, which begins on Monday. Carbohydrates return then. But I have faith in this diet and will take whatever comes. I expect to be satisfied by these meals that 2 weeks ago would have seemed extremely meager.

Today's menu: Breakfast -- eggs, Canadian bacon, 6oz Spicy V-8, and two cups coffee with fat free half and half. Mid-morning snack -- wedge of creamy Swiss cheese (Laughing Cow brand). Lunch -- nicoise salad. Mid-afternoon snack -- half cup cottage cheese. Dinner -- tuna cabobs and roasted vegetables. Dessert -- low cal fudgesicle.

Tuesday, August 26
Get a life!
This whole 10 Commandments thing has me in a tizzy. The memorial is only that - a memorial. This nation is founded on the separation of church and state. All that the courts have done is uphold the constitution. This has people sobbing on the steps of the courthouse and demanding that the Alabama Attorney General resign -- for enforcing the law. These people are no better than the Taliban. I can't stand intolerance. Get a life and let the rest of us get on with ours. Get that monument out of there.

So Far So Good
My wife and I each want to lose at least 10 pounds and we want to be able to keep the weight off. The challenge for us was to find a diet that would help us lose the weight and not be so different from our usual eating habits that we would have trouble dieting and then would gain the weight back once the diet ended. At first "Mrs Byrd" wanted to do the Atkins diet, but I didn't think that I could do that. My brother lost 20 pounds on that diet in 3 months, but he wasn't eating carbohydrates and he was eating 22 ounce steaks at night. That diet although successful isn't something that I can do. Atkins is too extreme for me. Mrs. Byrd agreed.

Two weeks ago I read an article a "new" diet in the latest issue of Men's Health magazine. The article referred to "good" and "bad" foods. I was shocked to see two of my dietary staples in the bad food category: bananas and carrots. To those of you in the know this comes as no surprise. My wife just smiled when I mentioned these foods and said, "of course they are dear". You see I have snacked on carrots while at my desk in the office for the last 15 years. I thought that was so healthy of me. I also have eaten a banana day for years. I thought that was so healthy of me too. Neither was as healthy as I had thought. Bananas and carrots are full of sugars. Who knew? Not me!

The diet that was written about is the strangely named, "South Beach Diet". By its name you would think that we get to have daiquiris every night. No such luck. We can't have any alcohol for two weeks and then we only get red wine.

Apparently this diet has been hyped and over hyped in all the popular media outlets. I missed the hype or at least came late to the hype. The diet sounded fairly balanced. Although it meant that former vegetarians -- Mrs B and I -- would have to journey further down the slippery and dark meat eating slope. We already had begun eating organic chicken. Now, if we were to do this diet we agreed that we would eat the recommended fish dishes. We've been trying to lose weight for many months, but our feeble efforts haven't succeeded. It was time to get serious. We would make the fish sacrifice.

We started the South Beach Diet a week ago today and we each have lost 6 pounds. Is it water weight? We will gain it back quickly? Will we plateau and stop losing weight? I don't know. What I do know is that we both feel great. I feel more fit than I have in years.

This diet is no cakewalk. For these first two weeks -- phase one -- we can't eat carbohydrates. Breads and fruits are off limits. Now I have always had bread at each meal and a breakfast of pancakes, waffles or French toast is my favorite and breakfast cereals had been a staple in my life. Also, I always have had a glass of orange juice in the morning. I have eaten this way for decades. Our breakfasts now are either eggs and veggie Canadian bacon or mini spinach quiches and a small glass of V-8. Not just any V-8 mind you -- since the Mrs and I don't really like tomatoes -- Spicy Hot V-8. After trial and error we have found that the V-8 is best warm. (I have been drinking the V-8 for 8 days now and may actually be acquiring a taste for tomatoes. Although, the Mrs. is still off the tomatoes.)

In addition to the 3 meals we get a mid-morning snack and a mid-afternoon snack. After the first couple of days our bodies adjusted and we almost never feel very hungry between meals. The more routine snacks are a stick of string (mozzarella) cheese, or celery and "laughing cow" cheese. Yesterday's morning snack was new. It was a delightful garlic hummus with pea pods, celery and green onions for dipping. I am looking forward to having that again. Lunches are salads, usually with chicken or tuna.

Dinners are chicken or salmon. The biggest surprise at dinner has been the faux mashed potatoes. We had these once last week and again last night. Potatoes are off limits, but cauliflower in on the menu. If you whip a steamed cauliflower in a blender, with two tablespoons of "butter" and a quarter cup of lowfat milk you get a consistency just like mashed potatoes and it tastes like mashed potatoes. It is delicious!

Mrs Byrd has suffered through the brunt of this diet though. There are recipes for each meal and each snack in the book. We follow these recipes to the extent that no red meat is involved. Few prepared foods are allowed in this phase of the diet. That means that all of the produce is fresh. Every vegetable has to be washed, cut and cooked. The chicken meat and the salmon have to be cleaned and trimmed. This diet is more labor intensive than anything that my wife or I have ever experienced foodwise.

I cook the egg breakfasts, but my wife cooks everything else. She prepares my snacks and my lunch. It feels like she is always in the kitchen. When we can, we shop together since there is a lot to buy. However, the bulk of the food is fresh which means that we go to the grocery store twice a week now instead of our previous once a week.

This diet has changed our eating habits for the better. This diet has changed our lifestyle for the better.

We are eating "closer to the earth" as I call it. We are buying locally grown produce and organic chicken. We are buying, for ourselves, very little that is packaged or manufactured. And these are limited to olive oils, vinegars, fat free half and half and the V-8. At least for the time being we have reduced our ecological footprint and we have reduced our waistlines.

Daily diet updates to follow. How exciting. Stay posted.

N. Korea Expert Resigns
Not able to accept a diversity of opinions within its administration, BushCo has caused the State Department's expert on North Korea to resign. He favored a slow non-confrontational -- carrot and stick -- approach. BushCo as, we know, does not. BushCo knows only the stick.

Organized Crime?
Is the SoBig virus and its ilk part of a bigger plan? Could these be tests before trojans are added into the mix? Even if not we all need to keep current with out anti-virus software. Could all of these viruses be spawned by Norton/McAfee and others just to sell software? Or do I see conspiracies too often?

Environmental Action
Not content to sit idly by, BushCo now wants to do more to destroy our national forests.
After years of debate, President Clinton passed the Roadless Area Conservation Rule placing 58.5 millions acres of national forest land under protection from the logging, mining, and drilling industries. The rule essentially prevents access to pristine forest lands. Without protection, logging, mining, and energy companies would be able to plow, bulldoze, and pillage through our forests in search of the last of our natural resources. The Roadless Rule grinds this practice to a hault. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has delayed full implementation of the Roadless Rule, and is pursuing amendments that favor industry over our freedom to enjoy and preserve our national landscape.

In the amendments the two largest national forests are exempted from the rule. Both of these forests are in Alaska; the Tongass National Forest (our nation's largest), and the Chugach National Forest (our nation's second largest). By excluding the Tongass and the Chugach, the Bush Administration allows for over 25 percent of the original forest land protected by the rule to be gutted by industrial logging. Adopted by the Forest Service in January 2001, after an unprecedented public rulemaking process that received over 2 million public comments, the original Roadless Rule protected over 9 million acres of the Tongass and nearly 5 million acres of the Chugach National Forest, including the most critical old-growth habitat of these great rainforests.

On June 9, 2003, former timber industry lobbyist and current U.S. Undersecretary of Agriculture, Mark Rey, announced that the Bush administration will strip the Tongass National Forest from the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. He also stated the administration’s intent to reconsider roadless protection in the Chugach National Forest – ultimately leaving America's last great rainforests open to commercial logging and development. The proposed rules are expected to be released later this month for public comment. Greenpeace
Take action now to save The Roadless Area Conservation Rule.

Monday, August 25
George Bush taking credit for increased salmon populations is like a sailor taking credit for the tides.

Sen. Joe Lieberman.

A politician unlike any other
Jerry Brown was Governor of California. Now he is the Mayor of Oakland. He used to live in a loft, but last spring moved in with his girlfriend. Her apartment is in one of the least desirable Oakland neighborhoods. It has the second highest crime rate in the city. Who in their right mind would voluntarily move there? There have been shootings down the street from the mayor's new home. I know of no other politician who lives their life as does Jerry Brown. He experiences life and truly cares about people. He now knows first hand the problems of urban crime and is single handedly working to clean-up the neighborhood.
He immediately became fascinated with the street scene playing out four stories below on a gritty and dilapidated stretch of Telegraph Avenue.

By day, the neighborhood is like the rest of downtown Oakland, buzzing with business and traffic. But Brown has learned that the 2500 block of Telegraph Avenue boasts a healthy nightlife.

He's seen cars cruise by and watched people jump in them only to reappear a few minutes later. His leisurely nighttime walks with his dog Dharma have been a lot more adventurous than they'd ever been along the Oakland waterfront.

Brown had a predictable middle-class reaction to his new surroundings: First he was appalled, and then he was a little concerned for his own safety.

Since a shooting occurred outside a karaoke bar near his home a few weeks ago, the mayor has brought every city agency within his reach -- from the police department to the housing agency to the building department -- to investigate the causes of blight and crime. SF Gate

Can you imagine BushCo living in Watts?

(Full disclosure: I was quite active in Jerry Brown's last bid for president. I wish that he had won.)

Friday, August 22
Action Figure
Give me a break. There is now a BushCo action figure. This isn't a parody. It should be.

Maybe I should get one, and a lot of pins, for a little voodoo rite.

For more fun, check out BushCo's military "career."

Thursday, August 21
The California Financial Information Privacy Act
The recall has created a circus atmosphere in California, but the business of the state has continued. There is good news on the privacy front. The forces of BushCo have been beaten back a little in California.

This week the state Assembly and the Senate passed the California Financial Information Privacy Act. This is a big deal from a privacy perspective. It is probably the strongest privacy legislation n the nation.

The bill, due to overwhelming opposition from business groups, bounced around the legislature for the past four years, but now, due to pressure from a proposed initiative, has been approved and is headed to the Governor's desk. Davis has pledged that, "I will sign that bill whether I'm governor for seven weeks or for three years.¨ He is expected to sign it next week. The legislation takes effect on July 1, 2004.

The measure raises the bar as to when financial institutions, insurers, stocbrokeragees and credit-card companies can share personal information such as name, address, phone number, social security numbers, annual income, bank balances, loans or debts.

One of the most stringent provisions of the Act prevents businesses from sharing personal financial data with an unrelated third party -- a bank sharing with a travel agency, for instance -- without the consumer's written consent. This is the "opt-in" provision. We must expressly allow this sharing to happen or it cannot legally happen. On the other hand, companies can share their customers' financial information with affiliates or partners if they first give consumers the chance to "opt out¨. If you opt out, then companies must comply within 45 days.

In addition, consumers must be notified if companies plan to share information with subsidiaries.
This is a "no opt" category. Consumers cannot control this information sharing. However, it is only permitted among and between certain restricted entities. The subsidiaries must be wholly owned by the company wishing to share the data, operate in the same line of business, such as a major insurance company and a subsidiary insurer, share the same regulatory agency and share brand identification.

This Act a giant step toward telling companies that my data, my personal information, is mine and not yours. You can't make money off of it unless I let you! Let's hope that there is a California effect and that strong privacy legislation begins to pop up throughout the country.

The full text of the Act is here.

Wednesday, August 20
Davis finally speaks out
California Governor Gray Davis gave his first speech yesterday against the recall. Finally, another democrat is saying aloud what we know. Republicans are trying to steal last November's election. It is too bad that it takes a direct assault on someone's integrity for them to get the gumption to speak the truth.
Gov. Gray Davis pleaded with Californians today to reject the attempt to recall him, describing it as part of a right-wing effort "to steal elections Republicans cannot win."

Mr. Davis, a Democrat elected to a second term only last fall, made a vigorous case for himself in a late-afternoon address at the University of California at Los Angeles that was carried live on several local television stations and cable news networks.

"There are many reasons to be against this recall," he said. "It is expensive, it's undemocratic, it's a bad precedent, and it almost certainly will breed more recalls."
The Republicans behind this recall say they want you to oust me for past mistakes," he said. "My friends, they don't give a rip about past mistakes. This is all about control in the future, seizing back the governor's chair and believing with so many candidates running for office they can do it with just a handful of California voters. That's what this is all about." NYTimes available 7 days, password/id "rbyrd"

Ashcroft would love it
Ashcroft would love it if the U.S. had these. (NYTimes, available 7 days, password/id "rbyrd")
For almost two decades, Chinese citizens have been defined, judged and, in some cases, constrained by their all-purpose national identification card, a laminated document the size of a driver's license.

But starting next year, they will face something new and breathtaking in scale: an electronic card that will store that vital information for all 960 million eligible citizens on chips that the authorities anywhere can access.
The original identification card, introduced in 1985, contains such personal data as one's nationality and birth date and an 18-digit identification number. It also indicates a person's household registration, which has traditionally tied a person to his or her province of birth.

In June, China's top legislative body, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, passed the National Citizen ID Law, approving the cards. They are to have a microchip storing personal data, but the face of the card is not to contain details any more personal than what is on the current cards.
While it may make sense to track would-be terrorists, the cards would also make it much easier for the government to monitor political or religious dissidents. After China's 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, the government televised photographs and identification card numbers of student leaders being sought. Under the new system, tracking dissidents would be much easier...
China now, the U.S. in 2010?

Tuesday, August 19
In the name of security, no more anonymity with the USPS
Does it matter to you if the U.S. mail has no possibility of anonymity? There could be no more "secret admirer" letters. That might be a good thing.

A presidential commission tasked with studying ways to make the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) more efficient has recommended that it work with the Department of Homeland Security to develop sender identification technology for all U.S. mail. This "intelligent mail" would incorporate data-rich, machine-readable markers to make each piece unique and traceable.

In its final report, released July 31, the President's Commission on the U.S. Postal Service said sender identification technologies such as personalized stamps that embed digital identification information would not only improve USPS tracking and delivery operations, but would also enhance the security of the mail system.

...the USPS intends to award a contract in November for mobile data collection devices that could serve as intelligent mail scanners.
Do we really want yet another facet of our lives inventoried and put into a growing federal database? Privacy is anonymity. Each incremental step away from anonymity chips away at our privacy.

Monday, August 18
My Two Cents
The California recall. What can I say? You’ve been reading about it. You know that Gray Davis is dropping in the polls of likely voters like a rock in a pond. Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante is the key democrat on the ballot, but his ratings are even with Arnold's. Arnold is likely to be the next Governor of California. This supposed “outsider” has campaign support from key California insiders. His spokesperson is former Governor Peter Wilson. His staff is comprised of former Wilson staff and staff of the former Insurance Commissioner Quackenbush– the man who resigned in disgrace since he regulated insurance by ripping off consumers and supporting the industry and using state funds to further his political career. Arnold’s staff is full of political insiders. Some of whom have questionable ethics at best.

George Schultz has signed on as an advisor to the campaign. Warren Buffet – a democrat – is Arnold’s budget and finance advisor. He has some big guns supporting him. He even has rob Lowe as an advisor. The Republican Party is applying pressure on the other republicans in the recall race. They want these republicans to withdraw and declare their support for Arnold. Arnold is going up in the polls and everyone else is going down. Arnold's campaign strategy is to not speak on the issues, to not talk to reporters and to only make public appearances outside of California.

Davis’ ratings aren’t surprising. He is a most uninspiring Governor. He leads by focus group. It is very rare to see him passionate about anything. He was re-elected last November because there were no other viable moderate/liberal/progressive choice on the ballot. Generally, I agree with his policies. He is good for students and good for the environment, but he doesn’t lead. People want leaders. It is easy to se why his polling numbers are dropping. Cruz Bustamante may be a nice guy and maybe would be a good Governor, but no one knows much about him. He is Lt. Governor, but that doesn’t mean much. The job only has something to do if the Governor delegates some responsibilities. Davis delegated nothing to Bustamante and according to Bustamante, Davis and he rarely spoke. Thus there isn’t much of a recent track record for Bustamante to point to. They say that he will motivate the Latino vote. Perhaps. That would mean that he would get the Latino vote and the vote of core democrats. Hell I usually consider myself a core democrat, but I am not even sure that I will vote for him. I might end up voting for Peter Camejo, the Green party candidate. There is no strong democrat in the race.

For three days John Garamendi the state’s insurance commissioner, was a declared candidate. He has proven to be a strong consumer advocate. He cares about education, the environment and is working for a state health care plan. The Democratic Party and labor pounced on him. His declaration was considered traitorous. He withdrew from the race just before the filing deadline. That left democrats with Davis and Bustamante. The state Democratic Party is playing a high stakes game with the future of California. Democrats’ options are limited and uninspiring. The only choices are to (hold your nose ) and vote to oppose the recall and to vote for the relatively unknown Bustamante to replace Davis, in case he is recalled. The democrat party gambled by leaving voters with little choice. I fear that the party and the state will lose because of this narrow focus. Once again democrats have blinders on.

In order to beat Arnold there must be someone who can inspire voters. The democrats have no one. This is frustrating because the republicans never say die tactics are going to succeed. I want Davis to defeat the recall just because it is unjust. He was re-elected in November and is not accused of any malfeasance. The biggest charge is that he has overseen California’s historic deficit. But he is just the governor. The legislature send s the budget to him. Let’s suppose for a second that racking up a deficit is justification for a recall. Have the republicans turned a blind eye to the national deficit? BushCo – a GOPer – can do what he likes, but Davis – a heathen Democrat – must walk the line.

There is a Casino that advertises along highway 80 in Northern California. Its slogan is “Winning is Everything”. That irritates me. That is how BushCo and his ilk feel. No wonder people lament the loss of civility in American society.

Someone always has to come in second. Someone always will feel the loser. That’s life. Winning is not everything. I was taught that, “It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose. It is how you play the game.” That seems quaint now.

To the victor go the spoils.

Monday, August 4
Gone for a Walk in the Woods

It is August. Time for vacation. Time for reflection.

There will be no further updates to this blog for two weeks, until August 18th.