horses and saddles sold cheap and other metaphors

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Enemy Among Us Citizen militias are still locked and loaded in rural America
The central threat these miniature armies pose is their likelihood of spinning off rogue members. Militias, which Mark Pitcavage of the extremist-tracking Anti-Defamation League described to Gagnon as "finishing schools for people of a certain ideology," can give members not only the technical capability to murder thousands but also the ideological wind in their sails to justify such actions. Timothy McVeigh, of Oklahoma City bombing fame, was linked to the very militia Gagnon visited at Camp Stasa. Alongside the very real threat they pose, however, is the comedic figure their members cut while wearing camouflage fatigues they say are needed to abide by the Geneva Conventions or patrolling the US-Mexico border on a "peace-keeping mission." As Gagnon says, they're "more likely to provoke curiosity than fear," and it may be this lack of fear that has allowed the phenomenon to slip back under the radar.

It now seems that even the FBI isn't taking them seriously. As the bureau's deputy assistant director for counterterrorism told a Senate hearing in May, "ecoterrorist" groups like the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front top the agency's domestic priorities.

Love of animals is great, respect for nature is to be encouraged, but there are groups that have at times gone too far in their zeal to protect animals from threats both percieved and real. Still its difficult to believe that given their history that militia groups are considered a lower priority on the domestic terror front then animal rights groups. I haven't heard of either of the groups mentioned in this article blowing up office buildings and killing hundreds. I wonder why the mentality that justifies Bush's little optional war in Iraq by siteing a series of unrelated terror attacks during the eighties and nineties doesn't also justify declaring war on some far right terrorists here at home.

I know that many have wondered how to teach an ant to run. Its a little like training for Olympic track events, the coach runs with you and helps you with your technique.......First Demonstration Of 'Teaching' In Non-human Animals: Ants Teach By Running In Tandem

Certain species of ant use a technique known as 'tandem running' to lead another ant from the nest to a food source. Signals between the two ants control both the speed and course of the run. It is believed to be the first time a demonstration of 'formal' teaching has been recognised in any non-human animal.

This behaviour indicates that it could be the value of information, rather than the constraint of brain size, that has influenced the evolution of teaching.

OnGuard Online - stay safe on the net.

Gore to Address "Constitutional Crisis"
Indeed, his aides and allies are framing it as a "call to arms" in defense of the Bill of Rights and the rule of law in a time of executive excess.

The vice president will, according to the groups that have arranged for his appearance -- the bipartisan Liberty Coalition and the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy -- address "the threat posed by policies of the Bush Administration to the Constitution and the checks and balances it created. The speech will specifically point to domestic wiretapping and torture as examples of the administration's efforts to extend executive power beyond Congressional direction and judicial review."

and this should give VP Gore more to talk about, Bush Authorized Domestic Spying Before 9/11

But according to people who worked at the NSA as encryption specialists during this time, that's not what happened. On orders from Defense Department officials and President Bush, the agency kept a running list of the names of Americans in its system and made it readily available to a number of senior officials in the Bush administration, these sources said, which in essence meant the NSA was conducting a covert domestic surveillance operation in violation of the law.

If Bush did this without oversight by Congress or outside of FISA guidelines, then his argument that he must skirt or break the law in order to protect America falls a little flatter then it already was.

The wingnuttery continues their Swiftboating of John Murtha, Questions About My Record

Friday, January 13, 2006

Whoever has the most stuff or power when they die doesn't win

Whatever faults that Democrats may have the last few years have certainly pulled back the curtain on the Conservatives real view of big government, they're all for it. Whenever Bush has made a move to grab power and centralize it in Washington and the executive branch he has done so without legal presedent and a conservative legislature has been very accommodating. One-Man Rule
... presidential reservations of rights, the idea of the unitary executive, it's quite clear that Judge Alito is one of the intellectual authors of this entire approach. And he has consistently taken a view of executive rights and executive prerogatives that is extreme.

Alito is probably nice to his wife. Thats commendable, its also not the issue. With his confirmation a little bit more of your rights slip away.

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything seems seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we must be most aware of change in the air — however slight — lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness” — Justice William O. Douglas

Climate-Change Fungus is Wiping out Frogs
LONDON — An infectious fungus aggravated by global warming has killed entire populations of frogs in Central and South America and driven some species to extinction, scientists said on Wednesday.

In research that showed the effects of rising temperatures on delicate ecosystems, a team of researchers found that a warming atmosphere encouraged the spread of a fungus that has wiped out species of harlequin frogs and golden toads.

"This is the first clear evidence that widespread extinction is taking place because of global warming," Dr Alan Pounds, an ecologist of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve in Costa Rica, said in an interview.

"Climate change is already altering the dynamics of infectious disease and causing species to disappear."

I guess that since this is my third recent post on Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) I should call it the Pombo watch rather then a Pombo update: Get Richard or Die Tryin'
But an even bigger priority for enviros is thwarting the reelection of Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), chair of the House Resources Committee and a zealous advocate of major environmental rollbacks -- among them, weakening the Endangered Species Act, drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the outer continental shelf, selling off national parks and monuments, and changing mining law to allow thousands or even millions of acres of public land to be transferred into private hands.

"Pombo hasn't met a part of the country that he doesn't want to drill, mine, or develop," says Mark Longabaugh, former political director for the League of Conservation Voters

You can tell a lot about dogs by where they get their fleas,
Three years ago, he leapt over more senior colleagues to take the helm of the House Resources Committee thanks to strong backing from then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).

Pombo is just the California version of Tom Delay, he just hasn't been caught directly taking money in exchange for votes in Congress, but anyone with near 20/20 vision knows the guy is an influence peddler.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Cultural Conservatives versus the 800 pound Gorilla

The Rapid Disappearance of America's Middle Class
The danger, Warren finds, comes from both ends of the financial spectrum: a decline in real wages for full-time workers and huge increases in basic family expenses. As a result, families are staying afloat only because both partners work.

Male full-time workers in 2003 earned $800 less than their counterparts in 1970, after adjustment for inflation. Enter the second paycheck, and the family's combined income goes to $73,700 a year, a huge 75 percent increase from 1970.

Sounds great, right?

Not so, says Warren, and most of us would agree. Extra earnings increase costs for transportation, child care and taxes. Additional higher costs of mortgages and health care simply erase the added earnings — and then some. Warren estimates today's two-income family actually has $1,500 less per year in discretionary spending.

While economic reality facing the middle-class is a challenge for Democrats in how to tackle this problem, it presents a real dilemma for thoughtful conservatives ( if there are any left that can be heard above the shrill right-wingers). Cultural conservatives still have this utopian vision of what makes a perfect family, there's Dad, the reliable bread winner, the wife as full-time Mom, and at least 2 children ( who recieve the private of at least a privately supplemented education). There's not inherently anything wrong with that in general. The problem is movement conservatives, or rather Wall Street conservatives that dress up their greed in some hypocritical ideals want the money that Mom earns to fuel their profit margins. If Mom stops working to take care of junior, we trade the new gas guzzling luxury SUV economy for the old used basic transportation economy. This fight between the religious right and the Paris Hilton right is truly strange to watch. While you can find rationalizations in the Bible for greed, it wasn't when I was growing up, generally considered a virtue among southern Christians to be too materialistic. Once you meet the basic requirements for shelter, clothing, food, and miscellaneous, you're job as provider was done.
Don't even ask about single-parent families, the news is so grim. Divorced women with children or divorced men with child support are three times as likely to file for bankruptcy as married counterparts. "All income is budgeted, there is no one at home who can work if the primary earner loses a job or gets sick, and no one is around to take over if a child gets sick or an elderly parent needs help," says Warren.

Prefer the traditional '70s pattern, dad at work and mom at home? "The modern single-earner family trying to keep up an average lifestyle faces a 72-percent drop in discretionary income compared with its one-income counterpart of a generation ago." Mom works to keep the family afloat.

Democratic politicians can wonk their way out of this, they actually have had some ideas, rank and file Dems work it out on a personal level right now and make the hard choices and sacrifices. What do cultural conservatives do? They pretend the problem is completely cultural instead of mostly modern economic reality maintained by Bush conservatives that think cutting taxes at the expense of evrything else will solve everything. Yep, the economy is doing great, just keep putting on those rose colored glasses and pretending that 800 pound gorilla isn't in the room.

For those that haven't noticed, I'm a pro gun rights Democrat, though I come up short of being against any kind of reasonable legislation that keeps guns out of the hands of convicted rapists for instance. In the international realm that same reasonable-ness applies.......International Gun Trade Targeted at U.N.
As diplomats from around the world gather this week to lay the groundwork for a major June summit on arms control, leading rights advocacy groups are demanding that governments agree on a proposed treaty that would ban the illegal trade in guns.

Confiscated machine guns burn in a pyre. Existing small arms trade controls have failed to protect innocent civilians and must be drastically tightened, according to three surveys on the human cost of arms transfers to Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sierra Leone.(AFP/File/Antonio Scorza)
"No one but a criminal would knowingly sell a gun to a murderer, yet governments can sell weapons to regimes with a history of human rights violations or to countries where weapons will go to war criminals," says Barbara Stocking, director of the international humanitarian group Oxfam International.

Oxfam, which is part of the Control Arms Campaign, an umbrella group representing various organizations, believes that existing arms controls are powerless to protect innocent civilians from violence.

I know enough gun extremists to know that some will answer that the problem is we need to get guns to the poor civilians. Being poor in countries like Sierra Leone precludes having enough to get food, much less money for guns and ammo. Maybe that's
a project that the NRA could start, Guns and Food for Poor Folks.

Calliope Stellula calliope

BRAINS, HEART AND LUNGS: Largest brain, relative to size, of all birds. The brain is 4.2% of total body weight. Hummingbirds have proportionally the largest hearts of any living animal. 1.75% to 2.5% of body weight. Resting heartbeat is 480 beats per minute and can go as high as 1,260 per second when excited. Resting hummingbirds breathe 250 times a minute.

Levi Designs Jeans Compatible With IPods, Levis ride a little too low for my tastes, but even if Gap, which I usually wear came out with iPod pockets I'm a little dubious about having a "joystick" coming out of my pants.
Denim giant Levi Strauss & Co. said it had designed jeans compatible with the iPod music player that would feature a joystick in the watch pocket to operate the device.

Iraq Is Not Vietnam, makes the point that as the title implies, Iraq isn't Vietnam, which we all knew, but quiqmire does bring up visions of Nam and it is a quiqmire. I was thinking a few weels ago that over the next decade Iraq would become its own Israel-Palestine conflict, bobings and shootings a part of weekly if not daily life for years. One faction out to get another. While, despite Stephen Hayes and the tin foil crowd say, al-Queda wasn't in Iraq before the war, but they're there now.
The fact is that, militarily, the situation in Iraq is at a level below that of guerrilla war. The enemy is engaged in a widespread terrorist campaign much more similar to the Intifadah or the ira’s or eta’s attacks, if more concentrated and destructive. The coalition has already drawn some lessons from those struggles, in fact, as recent anti-terrorist operations in Iraq have focused on finding and killing or capturing the bomb makers rather than the bomb placers — a lesson centcom drew from the British experience in Northern Ireland. It may be that the more careful scrutiny of those conflicts will be more fruitful than the continuing study of Vietnam or other guerrilla wars.

Via Daily Kos: One of their blurp posts, so I clipped the whole thing, hope they don't mind.
The National Reviews Rich Lowry says the same -- it's a Republican scandal. Although he's perplexed why Democrats didn't want to turn out Clinton because he got a blowjob. Well, because it was insignificant. And we can thank Bush for driving that point home.

and its Tuesday Fighting Dem: Bill Winter a marine, Semper Fi

Monday, January 09, 2006

Researchers: Polar bears ingesting toxins
Researchers say that toxic chemicals from flame retardants are building up in the tissues of polar bears.

An international group of wildlife scientists have found that chemicals in the retardants are carried north from the United States by the wind. In the Arctic, they become increasingly concentrated in the fatty tissues of animals as they move up the food chain, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Outside View:unmet needs
Many in Congress and the Pentagon boast American troops have the best equipment in the world. But reports from the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan say otherwise. The information about the failures is not new; solutions are long overdue.

Some of the most worrying questions center on the efficacy and lethality of the firearms U.S. forces are using.

Official reports show high levels of dissatisfaction with the M-4 carbine, M16 rifle magazines, and M249 machine gun. The small size of the 5.56mm bullet used in these weapons is also highly controversial among some troops.

But problems with weaponry are just a subset of the larger issue: equipment that is not up to scratch.

Why do Bush conservatives hate our troops? I accept that while it was wrong tactically and morally to go into Iraq, since we did go in what accounts for how they have bungled things so badly.
Troops buy some equipment with their own money, usually because government issue performs poorly. Such items include gloves, socks, flashlights, padding for backpacks, "CamelBak" hydration systems, and weapons cleaning equipment. Banal items? Perhaps to us back home, but certainly not for soldiers fighting in the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert of Iraq, doing whatever it takes to keep their bodies and their weapons working.

Are the neocons in the comfort of their air-conditioned offices so far removed from the reality of life on the ground in Iraq that they can't see how basic and necessary
good boots are. How many of these defense contractors that are suppying poor equipment have an American flag and a picture of GW Bush in their office.

Don't let the LGF-freeper crowd know, but Alito has been known to shown respect for Muslims..........Abdul-Aziz v. City of Newark
Writing for the Court, Judge Alito concludes that a police department’s policy requiring officers to shave their beards, without providing an exemption for religious reasons, violated the First Amendment rights of two Sunni Muslim officers.

Still, the Federalists Freepers should like him overall....Freeping The Court

via TPMCafe, it seems that our man Pombo has got himself caught up in the conservative culture of corruption - A Donor Who Had Big Allies
In a case that echoes the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal, two Northern California Republican congressmen used their official positions to try to stop a federal investigation of a wealthy Texas businessman who provided them with political contributions.

Reps. John T. Doolittle and Richard W. Pombo joined forces with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas to oppose an investigation by federal banking regulators into the affairs of Houston millionaire Charles Hurwitz, documents recently obtained by The Times show. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was seeking $300 million from Hurwitz for his role in the collapse of a Texas savings and loan that cost taxpayers $1.6 billion.

The investigation was ultimately dropped.

As much as I would like Democrats to be poster children for Common Cause and the Sierra Club,I know they haven't been. Regardless, even the few Democratic scandals of the early eighties pale in comparison to the current crop of con artists and influence peddlers.......Abramoff: The Repubican Scandal
Republicans have been trying to deflect criticism surrounding the Abramoff scandal by falsely claiming it is a bipartisan issue. Republicans have been able to confuse the issue since many groups represented by Abramoff, for obviously reasons, did donate to both parties. What is more significant is that 100% of money directly from Abramoff was donated to Republicans, and all money donated as part of illegal schemes of donating money in return for favors involved Republicans. Looking at the big picture, the K Street Project was purely a Republican scheme to misuse money from people like Abramoff in their attempt to achieve one party rule.

Whenever a conservative starts to say that its Democrats too, just say NO. 100% of money directly from Abramoff was donated to Republicans. Democrats accepted donations from tribes that Jack represented! No, not the same thing. 100% of money directly from Abramoff was donated to Republicans. You're going to be tempted by their red-herrings about tribal money, just say NO, 100% of money directly from Abramoff was donated to Republicans. The plain and simple truth.

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