horses and saddles sold cheap and other metaphors

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Satire is a dying art. It's rarely done well and I've noticed that the blogs that try it and have comments, invariably some readers take it literally. This is the best I've read in a long time:

His Own Private Kingdom

I am an independent guy. I take a lot of pride in doing for myself, like my dad and my granddad before me, and I don't need any bloated, out-of-control government holding my hand. When I found our local public schools to be less than satisfactory, I said the heck with them, and began schooling our kids at home. They've never been happier with the learning experience, and they score higher on standardized tests than 98 percent of the kids in the state. I don't waste my life waiting on bureaucracy and I never have. I own a quarter-ton pickup and a 10-foot plow blade, so I can plow our road and the right-hand lane of the freeway if necessary every winter, and with the Allis-Chalmers grader I bought at auction I keep all the local roads that I use smooth and well maintained year-round. go read the rest

Like it or not we live and have lived in an age of specialization for some time. I can put a new water pump in a 68 Mustang, I won't go near the mechanics of a 2001 Honda Civic (I don't even know if they have water pumps). I took phyics and understand the basic theory of circuits, but I couldn't begin to wire a house. I'm a software geek, but couldn't write a program on a bet. We need each other. We need people that know and understand the things we don't. I'm all for being as independent as possible, but we all know, without getting into any esoteric philsophy that total independence isn't possible and that total dependence is to live like a leech. It doesn't hurt to major in art history and also know how to change a tire, but no way I'm teaching grades 1 through 12 and then plowing the back 50 for a crop of yellow feed corn.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Join the 51 Club We need 51 Senate votes to pass the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act -- the most important global warming bill ever introduced in Congress. A vote is imminent, so we must act NOW! Help Environmental Defense get 51 votes in the Senate -- the first hurdle to getting the bill passed. Join the 51 Club by contributing just $51 (or more) and help build a global warming majority in the U.S. Senate.

Global Warming: Undo It is an Environmental Defense campaign that addresses the critical issue of climate change. Our number one objective is passage of the McCain-Lieberman Climate Stewardship Act, which would dramatically cut polluting emissions.
sign the petition.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Who Owns the United States?

Ninety-four foreign-owned corporations from ten countries have collectively gained control of metals beneath one of every five acres of claimed lands in the United States, an estimated 1.2 million acres of public land altogether.
U.S. claimed lands are held by:

Ninety-four foreign-owned companies: 21 percent of the total of U.S. claimed lands.
2,270 companies with U.S. addresses: 42 percent of the total of U.S. claimed lands.
26,044 individuals: 44 percent of the total of U.S. claimed lands.

talk about corporate welfare:

Since 1980, the federal government has granted not only the mineral rights but also property deeds to 156 companies and 331 individuals, for U.S. lands totaling an estimated 194,673 acres. These lands, once public, have now passed permanently into private ownership. Some companies have received billions of dollars of minerals through these deals at a typical cost of $5 an acre.

these statistics are pretty staggering:

The mining industry returns to the federal government less of its sales revenue than any other industry operating on public land. Data from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) shows that the hardrock mining industry returned to the federal government 2.3 percent of its sales, compared to between six and 67 percent for timber, oil and gas, and coal industries (BLM Annual Report 2002).

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

This is just an interesting article about NCLB. While NCLB has some bipartisan support, many think it is a one size fits all solution, that more then ever makes each kid "just another brick in the wall". Then there's the fact that it's an underfunded mandate. Since funding is low, schools are frequently forced to cut programs/curriculum not directly related to getting the kids pass the standardized tests. Not a lot of statistics in the article, a more human perspective. Note the quote from Thoreau at the top: "What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook." No Child Left Behind?
Many programs are being cut for the sake of preserving time in order for students to focus on approaching standardized exams that measure schools' achievements for NCLB. It's becoming more common for recess and field trips to fall by the wayside when time is an issue. The Washington Post reported that at Bradley Hills Elementary in Bethesda, MD only had time for two field trips last year, as compared to their normal five or six, and quoted Donald Alvey, secondary education director for Spotsylvania County, VA as saying, "Our principals are most protective of preserving class time, especially as the testing draws near."

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Jargon watch. In their legendary and near herculian attempts to subvert the language Republicans continue their assualt on science or "sound science" or "good science". Not coincidently, what conservatives think of as good science is in direct proportion to the amount of contributions that flow into their coffers. The Gadflyer: The Fraud of "Sound Science":
"In early 1993, Philip Morris and its public relations firm, APCO Associates, created a nonprofit front group called The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC) to help fight against the regulation of secondhand smoke. To mask its true purpose, TASSC assembled a range of anti-regulatory interests under one umbrella, and rarely, if ever, explicitly challenged the notion that secondhand smoke poses health risks. Instead, the group, headed by former New Mexico governor Garrey Carruthers, described itself as a 'not-for-profit coalition advocating the use of sound science in public policy decision making.' Still, at the very least TASSC implied that the science of secondhand smoke was bogus. For example, in 1994 the group released a poll of scientists suggesting that politicians were abusing science on issues such as 'asbestos, pesticides, dioxin, environmental tobacco smoke or water quality.'"

There is, out there, in the fog of the collective thought the notion that pro-environment is anti-business. Not even most main stream Republicans believe it, yet with a heavily anti-environment and anti-science administration at the helm, that notion is unlikely to fade into the same whimsical land of people that still believe the earth is flat. Technology | In search of the perfect clamshell

"EarthShell has to try and fight the [plastic and paper goods] establishment," says Rathje. "They are fighting companies who are entrenched with methodologies and materials that have a long tradition -- for God's sake, paper goes back 100 years or more, and plastics go back to the '50s, and polystyrene the '60s. If [those companies] had come up with EarthShell, it would be a major player already. But they didn't."

Small outfits as well as multinationals have been working on environmental packaging, but it'd be hard to find another firm that has laid as much on the line as EarthShell. Long term, it wants to be not a manufacturer but a licensing company with its starchy ware degrading across the globe. The question of whether it will get there is still open, but a look at where the company stands now offers an illuminating glance at the challenges in bringing environmental sustainability to the plastics factory floor.

I'm not in the business of recommending stocks, but this does seem to fly in the face of every wing-nut that thinks environmental conscientiousness is the same as socialism.

EarthShell Corporation (Nasdaq: ERTH),
innovators of food service packaging designed with the environment in mind, announced
today that it received a Nasdaq Staff Determination regarding the Company's compliance
with certain Nasdaq SmallCap Market rules. Nasdaq indicated that the Company's common
stock market value has been below the minimum $35,000,000 as set forth in Marketplace
Rule 4310(c)(B)(ii). The Company is otherwise in full compliance with Nasdaq Requirements.


Monday, May 10, 2004

The G-Rated War
The media have covered up the casualties - and we've got the data to prove it.
by Sean Aday, Senior Editor

Many have already lambasted the Bush Administration for trying to censor images of coffins carrying U.S. soldiers at Dover Air Force Base, and rightly so. It's hard to imagine a greater insult to these dead young men and women than to willfully ignore them because their sacrifice might be a political liability.

If the media is so damn liberal (as in fair and accurate finders and defenders of the truth), how did this happen? Could it be that a huge part of the media feeds the public pablem, and encouraged the misconceptions that the public had after 9-11. How Bush Misled the world

The United States intelligence services did not fail on Iraq - it was the Administration that failed, writes Sidney Blumenthal.

Before he departed on his quest for Saddam Hussein's fabled weapons of mass destruction last June, David Kay, chief of the Iraq Survey Group, told friends that he expected promptly to find the cause of the pre-emptive war. But on January 28, Kay appeared before the US Senate to testify that there were no WMDs. "It turns out that we were all wrong," he said. President Bush, he added helpfully, was misinformed by the whole intelligence community which, like Kay, made assumptions that turned out to be false.

Within days, Bush declared that he would, after all, appoint a commission to investigate. Kay's testimony was the catalyst for this U-turn, but only one of his claims is correct: that he was wrong. The truth is that much of the intelligence community did not fail, but presented correct assessments and warnings, that were overridden and suppressed.

On virtually every single important claim made by the Bush Administration in its case for war, there was serious dissension. Discordant views - not from individual analysts but from several intelligence agencies as a whole - were kept from the public as momentum was built for a congressional vote on the war resolution.

Precisely because of the qualms the Administration encountered, it created a rogue intelligence operation, the Office of Special Plans, located within the Pentagon and under the control of neo-conservatives. The OSP roamed outside the ordinary process, stamping its approval on stories from Iraqi exiles that the other agencies dismissed as lacking credibility, and feeding them to the President.

To this day, Preznit Bush has done very little to clear up what amounts to a half baked conspiracy theory what is now regarded as common knowledge by a large segment of the American public. Why doesn't he make a special speech to the public to clear up the myths surrounding 9-11 and Iraq? Because it benefits him at the polls. National security is what he polls strongest on. To admit that he mislead the public in both fact and approach to the problems of both terrorism and Iraq would kill his chances for re-election. If history tells us anything about the Bush dynasty, it's that the truth is the first casualty of any election and ethics are as out dated as a two horse garage.

Price of the Liberal Media Myth

The notion of a Â?liberalÂ? national news media is one of the most enduring and influential political myths of modern U.S. history. Shaping the behavior of both conservatives and liberals over the past quarter century, the myth could be said to have altered the course of American democracy and led the nation into the dangerous corner it now finds itself.

One view is that the durability of the Â?liberal mediaÂ? myth is a testament to today's conservative media power Â? that simple repetition from a wide enough circle of voices will convince a gullible portion of any population that a lie is the truth. ThatÂ?s especially the case when there are few voices arguing to the contrary.
The "liberal media" myth has survived even though at its center sits a glaring misconception about how news organizations work.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Dr. Jeffrey R. Ryan is a history teacher at Reading (Massachusetts) Memorial High School and the 2003 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year

"Nevertheless, I considered attending the conference so that my voice could be heard.

Then Secretary Paige uttered his execrable and vile remark about the National Education Association (NEA) being a "terrorist organization" because of its objections to provisions of the NCLB Act. To me, this was reminiscent of the most ugly and hateful traditions of American politics: a tendency (dating at least as far back as the 18th century) for politicians to equate legitimate political dissent with disloyalty, treason, and in this case, terrorism.

The Bush Administration has shown a frightening tendency to link expressions of disagreement with its policies to disloyalty to the country. John Ashcroft has proclaimed that those who do not support his Patriot Act are "with the terrorists." Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have used equally inflammatory and irresponsible rhetoric in insinuating that those who do not embrace their dictates without question are somehow unpatriotic and un-American."

This continues a more then unfortunate trend in the Bush Company, to not just disagree with a person or institution, but to smear them. So much for Bush's promise to be a "uniter, not a divider".
Which brings us to an article at Gadflyer

Where's our Samuel Johnson?
A call for recapturing the definition of patriotism

My Ecosystem Details