Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Board to Death

Adbusters has a good article on the incestuous relationship between the media and big business.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Not Left Out of Academia

This is a good article. The point about liberals and conservatives choosing different life paths strikes me as right on the mark.

By Eric M. Uslaner Wednesday, December 12, 2007

In his article in Outlook, Robert Maranto says he finds it lonely as a conservative in academia. He rightly dismisses any conspiratorial notions of a left-wing cabal that blocks conservatives from the halls of ivy. Instead, he says, the left that dominates university life in America acts less disingenously: It simply reproduces itself by favoring new hires who replicate their own views.

This argument may sound convincing, but it is flawed. And I say this as someone who has long respected Robert Maranto and his work. I was his mentor at the University of Maryland, from which he received his bachelor's degree in government in 1980. We have kept in touch and see each other often. We do not, however, commiserate about how people like us face discrimination in the academic marketplace -- because I am part of the liberal majority he sees as threatening people like himself.

In one crucial way, his argument is beyond reproach: Study after study indicates that most university faculty tilt to the left. But they are liberal Democrats, not Marxist zealots protesting the evils of the capitalist system. Maranto tells a handful of stories about alleged bias in academic hiring, but he provides no systematic evidence that liberal academics either consciously or unconsiously seek to replicate their own ideology in hiring.

A more fruitful way to begin a discussion of bias among academics is to ask why so many academics are liberal in the first place. I have no data about this question. But my own life story, and those of others I know, suggest an alternative explanation: People choose academic careers because they care more about intellectual pursuits than about making lots of money.

I had two opportunities as an undergraduate to select careers that would have been far more lucrative -- a college girlfriend who wanted me to join her father's accounting firm and a guaranteed position in a major law firm if I went to law school. I turned down both -- and lost the girlfriend -- because I wasn't interested in becoming an accountant or a lawyer. I'd be making substantially more money than I do now if I had chosen either route, but I doubt that I'd be very happy.

Still, plenty of people do choose to go to law school and business school, and some of them earn starting salaries approaching what I make after almost 40 years of university teaching. Law school and business school are rigorous, but they demand more rote memorization and less creativity than Ph.D. programs. The payoff for enduring these curricula are large salaries -- while academics "pay a price" for the "luxury" of pursuing research agendas of their choice.
The lure of large salaries is likely to appeal more to conservatives than to liberals. It seems very likely that business school graduates are as conservative as university faculty are liberal. Just as academics tilt to the left, people in the business world tilt to the right. Financial success is more important to young conservatives than to young liberals, so early on, there is a sorting out of career options.

We in the academy don't seek to replicate ourselves. I can't remember any hiring decision my department has ever made where the candidate's ideology was discussed. There are Republicans on our faculty -- when you teach about elections, it is useful (and fun) to have colleagues on the other side of the political fence. Even as I am a liberal Democrat, I wrote the evaluation for promotion for a conservative Republican colleague -- and he, in turn, wrote the tenure evaluation for a then-junior colleague considerably to the left of me. Some of my best and most successful students -- and the ones I have been closest to -- have been Republicans.

On rare occasions, someone will raise the issue of the ideology of a colleague. About a decade or so ago, one colleague on the left raised a question about a tenure candidate's past affiliation with conservative think tanks. The other tenured faculty at the meeting, including several even further to the left, shouted him down. These concerns were irrelevant, they insisted. And they carried the day: The anonymous vote for the candidate was unanimous for tenure and similar issues have never been raised since then.

All that said, I am not arguing that there is no ideological discrimination in academia. The anecdotes in Maranto's article show there is. But Maranto, of all people, should know that anecdotal evidence is hardly conclusive. His own area of expertise -- school choice -- is hotly debated in political science circles. The main advocate for a more market-based solution is a universally respected full professor at Harvard.

We have no evidence that ideological discrimination is common. If Robert Maranto believes it is, there is at least one concrete step he can take to combat it: Encourage his best conservative students to join him in the academy.

The author is a professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Pundamentals!


  1. Energizer Bunny arrested. Charged with battery.
  2. A man's home is his castle. In a manor of speaking.
  3. A pessimist's blood type is always b-negative.
  4. My wife really likes to make pottery, but to me it's just kiln time.
  5. Dijon vu. The same mustard as before.
  6. Practice safe eating. Always use condiments.
  7. A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother.
  8. Shotgun wedding: A case of wife or death.
  9. I used to work in a blanket factory, but it folded.
  10. A man needs a mistress just to break the monogamy.
  11. A hangover is the wrath of grapes.
  12. Is a book on voyeurism a peeping tome?
  13. Dancing cheek-to-cheek is really a form of floor play.
  14. Banning the bra was a big flop.
  15. Sea captains don't like crew cuts.
  16. Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?
  17. A successful diet is the triumph of mind over platter.
  18. A gossip is someone with a great sense of rumor.
  19. Without geometry, life is pointless.
  20. When you dream in color, it's a pigment of your imagination.
  21. Condoms should be used on every conceivable occasion.
  22. Reading whilst sunbathing makes you well-red.
  23. When two egotists meet, it's an I for an I.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Privacy Rights: Trust government?

SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER EDITORIAL BOARD

Lowered expectations seem to be the order of this day in this world. Take the case of Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. In speaking to the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kerr said that Americans can't expect to have privacy, because people give up so much information online already. "Protecting anonymity isn't a fight that can be won. Anyone that's typed in their name on Google understands that." The message is clear: Give up.
Kerr and those who buy into his line of thinking need to know that choosing the type of info one enters into MySpace (which, apparently, has many 99-year-old users) or Google is not comparable to the government sifting through one's private records and listening in on one's phone conversations without going through the proper channels.

Even more laughable is the assertion that we should just trust the government and businesses to safeguard their information. But how could we, when we see that Yahoo handed over the user records of human rights activist Shi Tao -- now serving a 10-year prison sentence -- to the Chinese government? Or when we hear that U.S. phone companies secretly complied with similar requests from the Bush administration? And what about all those government laptops with private information that go missing?

President Bush vows to veto a bill that doesn't give immunity to companies that hand over private records to the government. We hope that the Democratic Congress stands up to such blatant, wide-reaching violations of our privacy.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

An Empty Embassy

The US diplomatic core has virtually gone on strike as the result of the decision to fire diplomats who won't go to Iraq.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Why California's Burning

I was wondering why California was burning. I thought it may have had to do with droughts from global warming, wreckless suburban expansion, or misdirected water resources. It turns out I was wrong all along. It's divine vengeance (hell fires?) for "hating America." According to Glenn Beck, the radio host:

I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fatten them up first with chocolates

This is a bit disconcerting: All a professor has to do is hand out chocolate before evaluations and the scores all go up!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Assign the punishment

Three guys found themselves in Hell: we will call them Carl, Bob, and Brett, they were a little confused at their present situation, and they were startled to see a door in the wall open, and behind the door was perhaps the ugliest woman they had ever seen. She was 3'4", dirty, and you could smell her even over the Brimstone. The voice of the Devil was heard, "Brett, you have sinned! You are condemned to spend the rest of eternity in bed with this woman!" And Brett was whisked through the door by a group of lesser demons to his torment. This understandably shook up the other two, and so they both jumped when a second door opened, and they saw an even more disgusting example of womanhood gone wrong. She was over 7' tall, monstrous, covered in thick black hair,and flies circled her. The voice of the Devil was heard, "Carl, you have sinned! You are condemned to spend the rest of eternity in bed with this woman!" And Carl, like Brett, was whisked off. Bob, now alone, felt understandably anxious, and feared the worst when the third door opened. And as the door inched open, he strained to see the figure of ... Cindy Crawford. Delighted, Bob jumped up, taking in the sight of this beautiful woman, dressed in a skimpy bikini. Then he heard the voice of the Devil saying: "Cindy, you have sinned."

Friday, October 05, 2007

What you don't know can't hurt you!

What do you do when massive corruption is documented in the country you're occupying? If you're Rice, you classify it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

So Much for the Blackwater Ban

Democracy in California had the following follow up on the Blackwater debacle:

Surprise, surprise. Four days after pledging to ban Blackwater USA from operating in Iraq, it seems that Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki found a dead horse in his bed.

A US embassy spokeswoman said the decision to allow Blackwater to resume work had been taken in consultation with the Iraqi government. [BBC]

Well, I guess that settles that. However, if the Iraqi government does not challenge U.S. claims of immunity in the courts, and if it does not prosecute employees of Blackwater blamed for the killing of Iraqi civilians, as Maliki vowed it would, then it will have failed the ultimate test of sovereignty, leaving no doubt that the so-called "Iraq Coalition Government" is a puppet regime, doing the bidding of the mafia in Washington.

Further complicating matters is a probe by Federal prosecutors investigating whether employees of Blackwater USA illegally smuggled weapons into Iraq that may have been sold on the black market and ended up in the hands of a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.
Wow, smuggling weapons to "the bad guys" for some extra cash. The greed of mercenaries knows no bounds, and that's precisely the reason why it is dangerous for any government to employ them.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Acupuncture and sham acupuncture

This is an interesting finding: Acupuncture works but so does sham acupuncture. This confirms my suspicions that acupuncture probably does do something but it's effects have nothing to do with the psuedo-science of Chinese medicine.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The waters continue to grow darker

What can you expect when you hire mercenaries to do your dirty work?

If Erik Prince of Blackwater shows up at the House oversight committee's hearing into his company's activities in Iraq, expect him to get an earful. It's not just about the Mansour incident, or the murky legal status the private-security firm possesses. According to the Iraqi government, Blackwater employees engineered a jailbreak to free a minister convicted of corruption charges.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki referred obliquely to the incident yesterday. But a Defense Ministry spokesman told Leila Fadel of McClatchy that Blackwater, in December, broke former Electricity Minister Ahyam al-Samarrai out of prison in the Green Zone, where he was awaiting sentencing for embezzling $2.5 billion in reconstruction money.

Until now, Iraqi officials hadn't named the private security company that they believe helped Samarrai, the only Iraqi cabinet official convicted of corruption, to escape from a jail that was overseen jointly by U.S. and Iraqi guards. He subsequently was spirited out of the country and is believed to be living in the United States.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Reduced Mental Capacity

A group of neo-Nazis have been arrested in Israel. . . . If I were their attorney, I'd argue for a reduced mental capacity plea. This is like setting up a ku klux klan rally in Harlem.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Gonzales

Some significant dates in the career of Alberto R. Gonzales, the nation's 80th U.S. attorney general who announced his resignation today.

1979: Receives bachelor's degree from Rice University, after enlisting in the Air Force in 1973 and serving at Fort Yukon, Alaska.

1982: Earns law degree from Harvard University; joins the Houston-based law firm Vinson & Elkins, whose client list included Enron and Halliburton.

1995-1997: Served as general counsel to then-Gov. George W. Bush of Texas.

Dec. 1997-Jan. 1999: Named Texas Secretary of State. In the post he serves as an adviser to the governor and as Bush's liaison on Mexico and border issues.

1999: Appointed by Bush to the Texas Supreme Court.

January 2001: Named President Bush's White House legal counsel.

Jan. 25, 2002: In a memo to Bush, Gonzales contended that the president had the right to waive anti-torture laws and international treaties that provide protections to prisoners of war. Critics, including some Senate Democrats, have said the memo helped lead to abuses of the type seen at Abu Ghraib.

June 18, 2004: Gonzales is questioned by a federal grand jury in the criminal investigation into who in the Bush administration leaked the name of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Feb. 3, 2005: Confirmed and sworn in as 80th attorney general of the United States, replacing John Ashcroft, who resigned. The Senate approved the nomination, 60-36, on a largely party-line vote. His confirmation hearings grew contentious over his 2002 memo waiving anti-torture laws.

April 27, 2005: While seeking renewal of the broad powers granted law enforcement under the USA Patriot Act, Gonzales told the Senate Intelligence Committee, "There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse" from the law enacted after the 9/11 terror attacks.

July 24: Gonzales says he notified White House chief of staff Andy Card after the Justice Department in 2003 opened an investigation into who revealed a covert CIA officer's identity, but waited 12 hours to tell anyone else in the White House.

Dec. 15: The New York Times reports on its Web site that Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States without getting search warrants.

Feb. 6, 2006: The Times reports that U.S. long-distance carriers cooperated with the NSA's warrantless wiretapping of international calls.

Feb. 6: Gonzales tells Congress the president is fully empowered to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants as part of the war on terror.

April 6: The Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee says Gonzales is "stonewalling" Congress on the warrantless eavesdropping program.

May 21: Gonzales says he believes journalists can be prosecuted for publishing classified information.

June 7: Gonzales defends the FBI's search of a Democratic congressman's office, saying it was an "unusual step" but necessary in a bribery investigation.

Nov. 18: Gonzales says critics of the administration's warrantless surveillance program define freedom in a way that poses a "grave threat" to U.S. security.

Jan. 17, 2007: Gonzales changes course and puts the government's terrorist spying program under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Feb. 8, 2007: Former U.S. Attorney John McKay of Seattle says his resignation was ordered by the Bush administration without explanation, seven months after he received a favorable job evaluation.

March 6: Another fired federal prosecutor tells a Senate committee he felt "leaned on" by Republican Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., who hung up on him when told indictments in a corruption case against Democrats would not be issued before the fall elections.

March 9: Gonzales orders an internal Justice Department investigation into the FBI's use of the USA Patriot Act after an audit found that agents had improperly and, in some cases, illegally obtained personal information about people in the United States.

March 11: Citing the FBI's illegal snooping into people's private lives and the Justice Department's firing of federal prosecutors, Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer says it's time for Gonzales to step aside.

March 13: Gonzales accepts responsibility for mistakes in the way the Justice Department handled the dismissal of eight federal prosecutors. Gonzales says he was not closely involved in the dismissals and rejects calls for his resignation.

March 29: A former top aide to Gonzales says the attorney general was briefed regularly over two years on the firings of federal prosecutors, disputing Gonzales' claims.

April 19: At a contentious hearing, Gonzales struggles to convince skeptical senators he did nothing improper in firing eight federal prosecutors. He loses ground as a second Republican senator joins the calls for his resignation and others question his credibility.

April 23: Bush offers fresh support for Gonzales, saying "This is an honest, honorable man, in whom I have confidence."

May 10: Gonzales is questioned by the House Judiciary Committee, but seemed to weather the interrogation better than during his earlier appearance before the Senate. House Republicans echo Gonzales' call for Congress to move on from the issue of the fired prosecutors.

May 17: Two Senate Democrats say they will seek a no-confidence vote on Gonzales over accusations that he carried out President Bush's political agenda at the expense of the Justice Department's independence.

May 21: Bush calls an upcoming Senate vote of no confidence in Gonzales "pure political theater" and stands by his embattled friend.

May 23: The former Justice Department liaison to the White House, Monica Goodling, testifies before the House Judiciary Committee, saying she believes Gonzales did see a list of U.S. attorneys to be fired. She also says that during a private conversation Gonzales "laid out for me his general recollection of ... some of the process regarding the replacement of the U.S. attorneys." She says she felt the conversation was not appropriate and didn't contribute to the dialogue.

June 11: Republican senators block a symbolic vote of no confidence against Gonzales. The 53-38 vote fell seven short of the 60 votes required under U.S. Senate rules to move the nonbinding resolution to a formal debate. Gonzales says, "I am focused on the next 18 months and sprinting to the finish line."

July 10: Democrats raise new questions about whether Gonzales knew about FBI abuses of civil liberties when he told a Senate committee that no such problems occurred. Lying to Congress is a crime, but it wasn't clear if Gonzales knew about the FBI's action before he testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee seeking renewal of the broad powers granted law enforcement under the USA Patriot Act.

July 19: Gonzales is questioned in a closed-door session of the House Intelligence Committee about Bush's wiretapping program and the administration's response to congressional subpoenas. Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes says members were especially interested in the reasons behind Gonzales' controversial 2004 visit to the Ashcroft's hospital bedside, reportedly to pressure the ailing attorney general to endorse Bush's surveillance program.

July 23: Gonzales tells Congress in a statement that he's troubled that politics may have played a part in hiring career federal prosecutors.

July 24: In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Gonzales denies that he and former White House chief of staff Andy Card tried to pressure hospitalized Attorney General John Ashcroft to re-certify Bush's domestic eavesdropping program. Gonzales' credibility was at issue throughout the proceedings, with senators of both parties growing exasperated and at some points accusing the attorney general of intentionally misleading the committee.

July 25: The Associated Press reports on documents it obtained showing that eight U.S. congressional leaders were briefed about the Bush administration's terrorist surveillance program on the eve of its expiration in 2004, contradicting sworn Senate testimony the day before by Gonzales.

July 26: FBI Director Robert S. Mueller says the government's terrorist surveillance program was the topic of a 2004 hospital room dispute between top Bush administration officials, contradicting Gonzales' sworn Senate testimony.

July 30: The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee advises Congress to hold off on a perjury investigation of Gonzales over his apparent misstatements about warrantless spying.

July 31: In a carefully worded letter to Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., that never mentions Gonzales, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell notes that the administration first acknowledged its controversial surveillance activities and used the phrase "terrorist surveillance program" in early 2006. Also, Democratic House members introduce a measure directing the House Judiciary Committee to investigate whether to impeach Gonzales.

Aug. 2: Senators in both parties concede that they don't have enough evidence to make a perjury charge stick against Gonzales.

Aug. 3: In a two-page letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, Gonzales declines to provide more information about discrepancies in his sworn testimony about the purge of federal prosecutors and its aftermath.

Aug. 11: Gonzales arrives in Baghdad for his third trip to Iraq to meet with department officials who have been there to help fashion the country's legal system.

Aug. 16: The House Judiciary Committee releases partially censored notes from Mueller, dated March 12, 2004, describing a distraught and feeble Ashcroft in his hospital room just moments after being visited by then-White House counsel Gonzales and Card, the president's chief of staff at the time.

Aug. 24: Gonzales telephones Bush at his ranch and says he is considering resigning. Bush says this is a conversation they should have in person.

Aug. 26: Gonzales arrives at Bush's ranch near Crawford, Texas, and they discuss the resignation over lunch. Gonzales signs letter of resignation.

Aug. 27: Gonzales announces his resignation and Bush publicly accepts.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Gripe Sheet

In case you need a laugh: Remember it takes a college degree to fly a plane but only a high school diploma to fix one. That's real reassurance for those of us who fly routinely in our jobs.

After every flight, Qantas pilots fill out a form, called a "gripe sheet," which tells mechanics about problems with the aircraft. The mechanics correct the problems; document their repairs on the form, and then pilots review the gripe sheets before the next flight. Never let it be said that ground crews lack a sense of humor. Here are some actual gripe sheets submitted by Qantas' pilots (marked with a P) and the solutions recorded by maintenance engineers (S). By the way, Qantas is the only major airline that has never, ever, had an accident.

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit.
S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That's what friction locks are for.

P: IFF inoperative in OFF mode.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you're right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny. (I love this one!)
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget

Friday, June 08, 2007

GIRL AT THE BEACH

A couple lived near the ocean and used to walk the beach a lot. One s ummer they noticed a girl who was at the beach pretty much every day. She wasn't unusual, nor was the travel bag she carried, except for one thing; she would approach people who were sitting on the beach, glance around furtively, then speak to them. Generally the people would respond negatively and she would wander off, but occasionally someone would nod and there would be a quick exchange of money and something she carried in her bag. The couple assumed she was selling drugs, and debated calling the cops, but since they didn't know for sure they just continued to watch her.

After a couple of weeks the wife said, "Honey, have you ever noticed that she only goes up to people with boom boxes and other electronic devices?" He hadn't, and said so. Then she said, "Tomorrow I want you to get a towel and our big radio and go lie out on the beach. Then we can find out what she's really doing." Well, the plan went off without a hitch and the wife was almost hopping up and down with anticipation when she saw the girl talk to her husband and then leave. The man walked up the beach and met his wife at the road. Well, is she selling drugs?" she asked excitedly. "No, she's not," he said, enjoying this probably more than he should have. "Well, what is it, then? What does she do?" his wife fairly shrieked. The man grinned and said, "Her name is Sally, and she's a battery salesperson." "Batteries?" cried the wife. "Yes," he replied.

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She sells C cells by the seashore. Groan … warned ya…

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

First the cats died, then...

The following story deserves to be quoted in its entirety:

FDA finds melamine in Chinese catfish
by Goldy, 05/23/2007, 3:42 PM

Tests conducted at a US Food & Drug Administration laboratory on behalf of the Arkansas Department of Health & Human Services have detected melamine in at least one sample of imported Chinese catfish. And while officials are downplaying the health hazard, this latest finding suggests that the human food supply is much more widely contaminated than previously acknowledged.

Not that this should come as a surprise. Back on April 1, when I first started covering this story at length, I wrote:

Unless and until the FDA determines otherwise, one cannot help but wonder if our sick and dying cats are merely the canary in the coal mine alerting us to a broader contamination of the human food supply.

Three weeks later, when we learned that melamine had tainted chickens, I congratulated myself on my prescience and specifically warned that “a huge swath of our food supply has been compromised … including farmed fish.” Then on May 8, after more details of our expanding food safety crisis had emerged, I elaborated:

According to recent studies, 81-percent of America’s seafood is imported, and about 40-percent of that is farmed. China is the world’s aquaculture leader, accounting for about 70-percent of global production. It is also a major U.S. supplier of farm-raised shrimp, catfish, tilapia, carp, clams, eel and other aquaculture products.

We now know that it is common practice in China to spike the nitrogen level of livestock feed by adulterating the product with both scrap melamine and scrap cyanuric acid. And it has also been widely reported that this contaminated feed is routinely used in China’s burgeoning aquaculture industry.

[…] Fish physiology can leave them particularly prone to bio-accumulating certain contaminants, and the nature of common aquaculture practices tends to exacerbate the problem. Farmed seafood raised on a steady diet of contaminated feed would surely retain some of the toxins in its flesh. But as far as we know, no imported Chinese aquaculture products have yet been tested.

Well, now imported Chinese seafood has been tested, and the results are disturbing. FDA tested Chinese catfish from four Arkansas wholesale distributors, and found detectable levels in at least one sample. Having recently passed Vietnam to become the largest exporter of farmed catfish to the US, China is on target to deliver over 20,000 tons in 2007. If contamination was rare, a positive test would be like finding a needle in a haystack, but considering what we now know about the widespread use of melamine-adulterated fish feed in China, a one-in-four chance strikes me as just about right.

USDA and FDA officials continue to insist that melamine-tainted poultry, pork and seafood is safe to eat and that contamination levels pose no risk to human health. But they simply do not know (or will not tell us) how widespread the contamination is, whether melamine accumulates over time in human kidneys or other organs, what other toxins may have been contained in the melamine scrap, and exactly how melamine interacts with cyanuric acid and other contaminants within the human body.

What we do know is that thousands of dogs and cats dropped dead after eating melamine-tainted pet food — some within only a meal or two of consuming the poisoned product. And the FDA’s own Protein Surveillance Assignment warns that chronic exposure to melamine “may cause cancer or reproductive damage,” and specifically instructs that “pregnant women should not perform this assignment.”

The media may have lost interest in the food safety crisis, but the story continues to unfold, much of it predictably. If farm-raised Chinese seafood is contaminated, it seems likely that so is Chinese poultry, pork and beef. And if multiple Chinese manufacturers were selling melamine-spiked gluten and protein concentrate to US importers as “human food grade,” then surely Chinese food manufacturers have been similarly duped as well. Given the facts (and human nature) there is every reason to believe that Chinese manufactured processed foods are sitting on the shelf today with detectable levels of melamine — and no doubt, have been for years.

And that’s just the melamine. From toxic levels of diethylene glycol in children’s toothpaste, to antibiotics in fish, to “filthy,” “unsafe” and “falsely” labeled products, China’s burgeoning yet largely unregulated food industry is reaching out to threaten consumers worldwide.
It was not a lucky guess that led me to suspect Chinese aquaculture products, but an informed one. Don’t be surprised when this story gets much worse.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Taylor article

For justice, the label must befit the crime

F or nearly 20 years, I've studied radical environmental movements. Fifteen years ago, I met with a small group of them in a forest in Tennessee . One among that group now faces sentencing before a federal court in Oregon for crimes attributed to the Earth and Animal Liberation fronts.

In the forest that day, the assembled activists shared their deep feelings of grief about the rapid decline of the Earth's ecosystems and some of the reasons that triggered their activism. The man now facing sentencing, Stanislas G. Meyerhoff, described how, as a boy, he had killed a bird with a slingshot and subsequently had became overwhelmed with remorse. That day in Tennessee , surrounded by others who understood, his grief returned, and he wept.
Today prosecutors are attempting to brand this man and nine co-defendants as terrorists, which could dramatically lengthen and worsen the conditions of their pending incarceration. U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled Monday that federal sentencing guidelines allow her to impose a "terrorism enhancement" on the confessed eco-saboteurs. Soon she will decide whether the facts in each case merit such an enhancement.

Given the way the terrorism-enhancement statute was crafted, a key fact the judge must decide is whether the defendants sought to influence or retaliate against the government. But this focus leaves out critically important ethical issues, also related to intent, which should be taken into account during sentencing, including when considering whether to label these defendants "terrorists." One such issue is whether they intended to kill or maim anyone -- their actions clearly show that they did not. Equally important are the deeper motivations of the activists.

In general, radical environmental activists are motivated by an ethical commitment to life in all its forms. They believe that, as human societies expand, suffering among human and other creatures has followed, some of which even face extinction. They believe that most people are indifferent to this intensifying ecological cataclysm. They conclude that politics as usual is insufficient and the only remaining ethical course is to resist, even illegally. Some, like that young man in the Tennessee forest, also have more personal reasons to atone for their own environmental sins.

A just sentencing ought to recognize that these defendants have good reason for their frustration and alarm. Scientists have amply demonstrated the imminent danger posed by the ongoing and escalating deterioration of the Earth's living systems. One need not approve of the crimes to recognize that a rational and compassionate urgency was a part of the motivation for them.

These are cases that cry for a judicious temperament that recognizes the moral complexity of the current cases in ways that the letter of the law might not. If terrorism is to be a meaningful term, able to represent society's harshest condemnation, it should be reserved for those who intend to maim or kill in the pursuit of their causes.

It is not a label that fits these defendants.

Bron Taylor is a professor at the University of Florida and president of the International Society for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture. He is author of "Ecological Resistance Movements; the Global Emergence of Radical and Popular Environmentalism."

Gliese 581 C

Space.com has a good article on Gliese 581 C, a planet that seems to be at the right temperature for liquid water to exist on the surface. I'm surprised that there isn't more interest and more research funding going into this. Even if it took centuries or thousands of years, the possibility of mankind stepping off our little rock strikes me as extremely exciting. If the planet is covered by water and is the right temperature, it doesn't seem like it would be too difficult for humans to live there and terra-farming (if plant life doesn't already exist there) should be pretty easy to do over long periods of time. In the short term, it even seems possible for humans to set up giant plastic domes where they could live and farm.

A excellent blog discussion of the new planet can be found at Centauri Dreams.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The late great terror threat

The Opinion Mill has a good discussion of the late great terror threat:

Oh, come on. Six guys were planning to take on Fort Dix? Using information gleaned from pizza deliveries? Practicing for their strike with paintball guns? I realize that these poll results are looking pretty bad for Bush and the GOP, but does the pimping have to be this blatant? Don’t they realize the scary-headlines con is way past its sell-by date? Haven’t they learned anything from the speed with which the arrest of those hapless zanies in Miami last year dissolved into farce? Can’t they at least review a few episodes of 24 to get the targets straight?
You want to know about terrorists? Check out these guys. Then come back and tell me about how we have to fight the terra-ists in Iraq so we don’t have to fight them on our shores. Guess what — the terrorists are already here. Only they want to kill dark-skinned people, so somehow it just doesn’t seem to be that big a deal.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

With a prom dress, tiara and combat boots

Alas, i wish all girls could be California grrrrls... (And can you imagine the theives having to explain this episode to their cell-mates in prison?)

SAN FRANCISCO - In a bizarre scene that seemed straight out of "The Streets of San Francisco," a San Anselmo teen chased thieves across Union Square Tuesday, capturing one and leading police to another. The big difference from the old television show was that Karl Malden and Michael Douglas never wore a prom dress, tiara and combat boots. Erin Schrode, a 16-year-old sophomore at Marin Academy, was decked out in prom gear and boots when she jumped into pursuit of three youths who swiped a friend's purse and a laptop computer at an afternoon protest rally.

The race lasted several blocks as Schrode kept up with the crooks, aided by an occasional onlooker, before catching one youth at the corner of Grant Avenue and Market Street. Bystanders detained the suspect as Schrode sped off down Market Street before San Francisco police joined the pursuit and caught the suspect. The third suspect vanished. "I wasn't going to let them get away," Schrode said. "They were 30 or 40 feet away from me when they took it in front of hundreds of people in Union Square. What were they thinking?" Schrode said she was shouting for others to stop the young men and to call police as she ran along busy blocks of Stockton Street and Maiden Lane.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Money & War

Demiorator has an excellent post on the large contingent of mercenaries working for the U.S. in Iraq (and in the U.S.)

Friday, April 06, 2007

Imagine

Corrente has the new version of "Imagine" as freshly released from the Bush Whitehouse!

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Signs That the End is Near

A priest and a pastor from the local church are standing by the road, pounding a sign into the ground, that reads: The End is Near! Turn Yourself Around Now Before It's Too Late!

As a car speeds past them, the driver yells, "Leave us alone, you religious nuts!"

From the curve they heard screeching tires and a big crunch. The priest turns to the pastor and asks,......... "Do you think the sign should just say "Bridge Out"?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Building fences to keep the fence-builders out

I saw this over on Alternate Brain:

The head of a California company hired by the U.S. government to help build a fence along the Southwest border to curb the flow of illegal aliens into the United States has been sentenced on charges of hiring illegals for the job.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

!

A drunk man who smelled like beer sat down on a subway next to a priest. The man's tie was stained, his face was plastered with red lipstick, and a half empty bottle of gin was sticking out of his torn coat pocket.

He opened his newspaper and began reading. After a few minutes the man turned to The priest and asked, "Say Father, what causes arthritis?" The priest replies, "My Son, it's caused by loose living, being with cheap, wicked women, too much alcohol, contempt for your fellow man, sleeping around with prostitutes and lack of a bath."

The drunk muttered in response, "Well, I'll be damned," then returned to his paper.

The priest, thinking about what He had said, nudged the man and apologized. "I'm very sorry. I didn't mean to come on so strong. How long have you had arthritis?"

The drunk answered, "I don't have it, Father. I was just reading here that the Pope does."

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

U.S. Concentration Camps

I don't care what side of the political spectrum one's on: You don't want to give a government the power to do this.

New Light Shed on CIA's 'Black Site' Prisons
By Dafna Linzer and Julie TateWashington Post Staff WritersWednesday, February 28, 2007


On his last day in CIA custody, Marwan Jabour, an accused al-Qaeda paymaster, was stripped naked, seated in a chair and videotaped by agency officers. Afterward, he was shackled and blindfolded, headphones were put over his ears, and he was given an injection that made him groggy. Jabour, 30, was laid down in the back of a van, driven to an airstrip and put on a plane with at least one other prisoner.

His release from a secret facility in Afghanistan on June 30, 2006, was a surprise to Jabour -- and came just after the Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration's assertion that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to prisoners like him.

Jabour had spent two years in "black sites" -- a network of secret internment facilities the CIA operated around the world. His account of life in that system, which he described in three interviews with The Washington Post, offers an inside view of a clandestine world that held far more prisoners than the 14 men President Bush acknowledged and had transferred out of CIA custody in September.

"There are now no terrorists in the CIA program," the president said, adding that after the prisoners held were determined to have "little or no additional intelligence value, many of them have been returned to their home countries for prosecution or detention by their governments."

But Jabour's experience -- also chronicled by Human Rights Watch, which yesterday issued a report on the fate of former "black site" detainees -- often does not accord with the portrait the administration has offered of the CIA system, such as the number of people it held and the threat detainees posed. Although 14 detainees were publicly moved from CIA custody to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, scores more have not been publicly identified by the U.S. government, and their whereabouts remain secret. Nor has the administration acknowledged that detainees such as Jabour, considered so dangerous and valuable that their detentions were kept secret, were freed.

After 28 months of incarceration, Jabour -- who was described by a counterterrorism official in the U.S. government as "a committed jihadist and a hard-core terrorist who was intent on doing harm to innocent people, including Americans" -- was released eight months ago. U.S. intelligence and counterterrorism officials confirmed his incarceration and that he was held in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They would not discuss conditions inside black sites or the treatment of any detainee.A House in Islamabad

By Jabour's account, and that of U.S. intelligence officials, his entrance into the black-sites program began in May 2004. In interviews, he said he was muscled out of a car as it pulled inside the gates of a secluded villa in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

In the week before his arrival, Jabour said, Pakistani intelligence officers had beaten, abused and burned him at a jailhouse in Lahore, where he was arrested. There two female American interrogators also questioned him and told him he would be rich if he cooperated and would vanish for life if he refused. He said he was later blindfolded and driven four hours north to the villa in a wealthy residential neighborhood.

The house in Islamabad, which U.S. intelligence officials say was jointly run by the CIA and Pakistani intelligence, had been outfitted with jail cells. When Jabour arrived, he saw as many as 20 other detainees, including the 16-year-old son of an Egyptian sheik, who had been captured in Pakistan. Dozens of al-Qaeda suspects swept up in the years after Sept. 11, 2001, have been through the house, according to accounts by former prisoners and U.S. intelligence officials with knowledge of the facility.

Jabour spent five weeks there, chained to a wall and prevented from sleeping more than a few hours at a time. He said he was beaten nightly by Pakistani guards after hours of questions from U.S. interrogators. Then he and others were whisked off to CIA-run sites. Some sites were in Eastern Europe; Jabour went to one in Afghanistan. Interrogators -- whom he described as Americans in their late 20s and early 30s -- told Jabour he would never see his three children again.

Human Rights Watch has identified 38 people who may have been held by the CIA and remain unaccounted for. Intelligence officials told The Post that the number of detainees held in such facilities over nearly five years remains classified but is higher than 60. Their whereabouts have not been publicly disclosed.

"The practice of disappearing people -- keeping them in secret detention without any legal process -- is fundamentally illegal under international law," said Joanne Mariner, director of the terrorism program at Human Rights Watch in New York. "The kind of physical mistreatment Jabour described is also illegal." Mariner interviewed Jabour separately as part of the organization's investigation.

The CIA said it would not comment directly on Jabour. "The agency does not, as a rule, publicly discuss specific rendition cases from the war on terror," said Paul Gimigliano, a spokesman for the CIA. But, he said, renditions "are a key, lawful tool in the fight against terror, and have helped save lives by taking terrorists off the street. They are conducted with care, they are closely reviewed, and they have produced valuable intelligence that has allowed the United States and other nations to foil terrorist plots."

John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, plans to investigate the fate of the missing detainees as part of a larger examination into the CIA's operation of secret prisons and its rendition program.

Aiding Al-Qaeda Fighters

In interviews with The Post from his parents' home in the Gaza Strip, Jabour acknowledged helping al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters who fled Afghanistan as the U.S. military hunted for the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Jabour was born to Palestinian parents in Jordan, raised in Saudi Arabia and educated in Pakistan. In 1998, he said, he became drawn to the plight of Muslims in Chechnya living under Russian rule. He crossed the border into Afghanistan so he could train in jihadist camps, then planned to join up with Chechen separatists.

"In Afghanistan, I met other people who believed in the Islamic state, where it was safe to practice Islam the way they wanted," Jabour said in a recent conversation. "I became friends with other Arabs who felt like me, Palestinians and Jordanians, but after three months of training I was told there was no chance to go to Chechnya."

Jabour returned to Pakistan in 1999. Two years later, after the U.S. military offensive in Afghanistan, those he lived and trained with came calling for help.

"Some of their children were injured, some of their women were wounded. From that moment, they came to our home and we helped them," he said.

Using funds from al-Qaeda financiers, Jabour said, he arranged for food, medical treatment and travel documents for several dozen people and arranged for others, including two African men who fought for al-Qaeda, to slip out of Pakistan. He did not return to Afghanistan to fight, and he said he had no interest in attacking Americans.

The U.S. counterterrorism official who discussed aspects of Jabour's classified file did not call him a member of al-Qaeda. But the official said that in Pakistan, Jabour "was in direct touch with top al-Qaeda operations figures," including Hamza Rabia, who briefly served as one of Osama bin Laden's lieutenants before a missile from a CIA predator drone killed him in December 2005. In interviews, Jabour said he met with Rabia on two occasions.

The official said Jabour "provided the money and means for other jihadists to move from Afghanistan to Pakistan" and provided funds that went to an al-Qaeda bioweapons lab. "He's an all-around bad guy," the official said. No charges were brought against Jabour, however, and the official would not say why he is free today.Taken to Afghanistan

On June 16, 2004, after weeks in the villa, Jabour was drugged, blindfolded and put on a plane. Counterterrorism officials did not dispute that he was taken to a black site in Afghanistan. Jabour said the facility was run by Americans in civilian clothes and guarded by masked men who wore black uniforms and gloves.

He said he does not know where the facility is located, and counterterrorism officials would not say whether Jabour was held at two known detention sites in Afghanistan -- one run by the U.S. military at Bagram air base, the other operated by the CIA outside Kabul.

Jabour said he was often naked during his first three months at the Afghan site, which he spent in a concrete cell furnished with two blankets and a bucket. The lights were kept on 24 hours a day, as were two cameras and a microphone inside the cell. Sometimes loud music blasted through speakers in the cells. The rest of the time, the low buzz of white noise whizzed in the background, possibly to muffle any communication by prisoners through cell walls.
Daily interrogations were conducted by a variety of Americans. Over two years, Jabour said he encountered about 45 interrogators, plus medical staff and psychologists. He was threatened with physical abuse but was never beaten.

Once, he was shown a small wooden crate his interrogators called a "dog box" and was told he would be put in it if he didn't cooperate. He was told that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the suspected architect of the Sept. 11 attacks who was among the 14 moved to Guantanamo Bay last year, became cooperative after he had been put in the box. But Jabour said he was not subjected to the crate.

He was, however, chained up and left for hours in painful positions more than 20 times and deprived of sleep for long periods. Sometimes he would have one hand chained to a section of his cell wall, making it impossible to stand or sit.

About six weeks into his stay, he was issued a pair of pants. Later he was given a T-shirt, then shoes, a Koran and finally a mattress. Jabour said prison conditions slowly improved: Air conditioning was installed; a library was built and stocked with books in Arabic, Urdu and English. Well-behaved detainees were rewarded with movie nights, in which such Hollywood blockbusters as "Titanic" were screened. A deputy director of the facility taught Jabour how to play chess and gave him pencils and paper. Jabour used to draw pictures of trees and grass, which he hung in his windowless cell.

Jabour recalled with fondness the prison director, a man named Charlie. "He told me, 'Marwan, we need information -- if you cooperate, that is good.' I told him I wasn't hiding anything and was not a dangerous man. He told me that they didn't want to use force but would if they had to. I told him I wouldn't lie to him."

Jabour began to receive better food, including pizza and Snickers and Kit-Kat bars.

Transferred and Released

On Dec. 18, 2004, six months after his arrival, Jabour was transferred to a larger cell. Under the sink he found a small inscription that read: "Majid Khan, 15 December, 2004, American-Pakistani." Khan, whose family lives outside Baltimore, was arrested in March 2003 in Karachi, Pakistan, and was among the group transferred to Guantanamo five months ago. The U.S. government has not divulged where Khan was held during his first 3 1/2 years of incarceration.

Jabour met only one other prisoner during his time there. That was an Algerian named Yassir al-Jazeeri, a suspected high-level al-Qaeda operative who was arrested in Pakistan in March 2003. Their visits were arranged by the facility director, who told Jabour they were rewards for good behavior.

During interrogations, Jabour was often shown hundreds of photographs of wanted or captured suspects. One photo appears to have been that of Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, a British-Pakistani who was arrested in Pakistan in July 2004.

Noor Khan, a suspected al-Qaeda operative, was thought to be involved in the planning of a disrupted 2004 attack on U.S. and British financial institutions. Babar Awan, a Pakistani lawyer hired by Noor Khan's family, said he has "heard nothing from the government authorities or any other authorities about where Noor Khan is."

There is no public U.S. government record available that states the CIA ever held Jabour, al-Jazeeri or Noor Khan.

Last April, John D. Negroponte, who was then director of national intelligence, told Time magazine that he did not know what would be the "endgame for the three dozen or so high-value detainees" in CIA custody at that time.

Jabour's odyssey ended with a secret flight to Amman, Jordan, where he woke to find himself in an office staring at government wall portraits of King Abdullah and his dead father, King Hussein. "I don't know why they released me, but I told them everything I knew . . .," Jabour said. "You have to tell them the truth and that was no problem for me. They are smart people," he said of his American captors.

The Jordanians called the International Committee for the Red Cross, which sent a representative to interview Jabour and to contact his family. He remained in Jordanian custody for six weeks, was interrogated and was then handed over to Israel's security services.
The Israelis treated him better than his other captors, he said. They got Jabour his first lawyer, an Israeli Arab named Nizar Mahajna, who said in an interview that the Israelis had held Jabour in a prison near Haifa for two months. He was not mistreated, blindfolded or shackled, the lawyer said.

Israeli authorities had considered charging Jabour with fighting for an enemy of the Jewish state. But, Mahajna said, Jabour's training in Afghanistan had occurred more than eight years earlier, he was not a member of al-Qaeda and he had never lived in the Palestinian territories.
"The Israelis were given secret information on Marwan, which they got from the Americans. It wasn't shared with me but whatever it says, the central fact remained that the Pakistanis and the Americans had let him go. Why should Israel keep him?" Mahajna said.

The Israeli government dropped the case and transferred Jabour to Gaza. Prison guards drove him to the Erez border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip. "Good luck," one of them said to Jabour as he crossed into Gaza, where his parents awaited.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Some call it baksheesh, but we call it . . .

the government.

Posted at Crooks and Liars, yet another Bush rolls in the dough brought about by this miscreant administration:

LA Times: President Bush's uncle William H.T. "Bucky" Bush was among directors of a defense contractor who together reaped $6 million from what federal regulators say was an illegal five-year scheme by two company executives to manipulate the timing of stock option grants, court documents show.The youngest brother of former President George H.W. Bush, he is the second Bush family member whose name has surfaced in stock options scandals this month.

He was an outside, nonexecutive director of Engineered Support Systems Inc. of St. Louis, a supplier of military equipment and electronics that financially benefited from the Iraq war. [..]In a civil suit filed Tuesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused the former chief financial officer and former controller of enriching themselves and others with backdating. Bush and the other board members were not accused of any wrongdoing.

Bush made about $450,000 in January 2005 by exercising his company stock options and selling shares, his SEC filing shows. When questioned by a Times reporter about the sale at the time, he said he had not pulled any strings in Washington to win Iraq war contracts.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Grand Canyon: A relic from Noah's flood?

And they say the dark ages ended . . . Personally, I don't understand how a world flood would shape land into a long and winding canyon. I guess I'm just not up on my creationism.

HOW OLD IS THE GRAND CANYON? PARK SERVICE WON’T SAY
Orders to Cater to Creationists Makes National Park Agnostic on Geology

Washington, DC — Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

“In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment.’”

In a letter released today, PEER urged the new Director of the National Park Service (NPS), Mary Bomar, to end the stalling tactics, remove the book from sale at the park and allow park interpretive rangers to honestly answer questions from the public about the geologic age of the Grand Canyon. PEER is also asking Director Bomar to approve a pamphlet, suppressed since 2002 by Bush appointees, providing guidance for rangers and other interpretive staff in making distinctions between science and religion when speaking to park visitors about geologic issues.

In August 2003, Park Superintendent Joe Alston attempted to block the sale at park bookstores of Grand Canyon: A Different View by Tom Vail, a book claiming the Canyon developed on a biblical rather than an evolutionary time scale. NPS Headquarters, however, intervened and overruled Alston. To quiet the resulting furor, NPS Chief of Communications David Barna told reporters and members of Congress that there would be a high-level policy review of the issue.

According to a recent NPS response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by PEER, no such review was ever requested, let alone conducted or completed.

Park officials have defended the decision to approve the sale of Grand Canyon: A Different View, claiming that park bookstores are like libraries, where the broadest range of views are displayed. In fact, however, both law and park policies make it clear that the park bookstores are more like schoolrooms rather than libraries. As such, materials are only to reflect the highest quality science and are supposed to closely support approved interpretive themes. Moreover, unlike a library the approval process is very selective. Records released to PEER show that during 2003, Grand Canyon officials rejected 22 books and other products for bookstore placement while approving only one new sale item — the creationist book.
Ironically, in 2005, two years after the Grand Canyon creationist controversy erupted, NPS approved a new directive on “Interpretation and Education (Director’s Order #6) which reinforces the posture that materials on the “history of the Earth must be based on the best scientific evidence available, as found in scholarly sources that have stood the test of scientific peer review and criticism [and] Interpretive and educational programs must refrain from appearing to endorse religious beliefs explaining natural processes.”“As one park geologist said, this is equivalent of Yellowstone National Park selling a book entitled Geysers of Old Faithful: Nostrils of Satan,” Ruch added, pointing to the fact that previous NPS leadership ignored strong protests from both its own scientists and leading geological societies against the agency approval of the creationist book. “We sincerely hope that the new Director of the Park Service now has the autonomy to do her job.”