Friday, June 30, 2006

I Want To Believe

I want to believe.

I want to believe that our government will take care of the health and wellbeing of our citizens. I want to believe that our government will look after the environment. I want to believe that our government will guard the precious freedoms given to us. I want to believe that our government will insure the separation of church and state. I want to believe that our goverment carefully guards all public funds.

I want to believe that I am not naive.

Democracy is a "participation sport". On Independence Day we must celebrate our freedoms, such as they are, but we must remember to be ever vigilant.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Spanking The Media

Living in the age of information, we are inundated each day with news stories. Naturally, these are comprised of reports of varying degrees of importance.

Thankfully, most people are quick to recognize those things that are truly important. Putting their priorities in an appropriate order, other lesser events are relegated to another more appropriate time and place.

Accordingly, with news of the birth of Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, an eager and excited public was ready for that first $4 million dollar photo of the golden child. And why not? To do anything less would be almost an abdication of one's civic duties. What! You haven't seen the photo? For shame!

And so it is that our esteemed traditional media have only our best interests in mind when pursuing stories for our daily consumption. Bennifers I and II? Got it. The (former) fat actress? We've got the jowly photos right here. Anna Nicole Smith? Read the full story.

Accordingly, upon arriving the other day at the local courthouse where I work, I knew that all was right with the world. You see, outside was a flotilla of the shiny mobile broadcast trucks, from a variety of networks. Upon seeing the Fox truck, first in line, I knew that I had the rare opportunity to be witness to a truly earth-shaking event. After all, who could rightfully question the attention of that "fair and balanced" network? Certainly not me. And to be fair (but not necessarily balanced), I was not disappointed.

Three photos of the busy press enclave are seen directly below.

In addition to walking by the aforesaid enclave each day, I am treated to a phalanx of reporters lined up behind ropes adjacent to the front door to the building. It's like walking down the red carpet at the Academy Awards, except without the Joan Rivers snark. And without the innovative fashions. And without the red carpet. But I digress.

And what, you ask, is the important event in question? What could be so important that it would draw so many resources to the rural county in which these proceedings are set? Why nothing less than a murder trial, transferred from its original jurisdiction in another county because of a potential conflict of interest.

But surely a murder trial taking place at a local courthouse wouldn't get this kind of attention, would it? Well, not without something more. A hook, if you will. An added twist to fire up one's attention. ( The Laci Peterson matter received national attention. Need I say more? )

In this regard, the facts do not dissappoint. And in view of this, it is no wonder that the networks were more than happy to commit a fleet of 7 or so mobile broadcast trucks and small army of 40 or so reporters and technicians for a period of several weeks. (if not months) Maybe they should have sent more. You see, the defendant is alleged to be an axe murderer. And (take a breath here), he is a young man alleged to have murdered his father with the aforesaid axe. And, then he went after his mother. And, she lived, albeit greatly disfigured by her son's attempts to kill her. And, she is seen daily, seated next to her son, to whom she apparently still provides emotional support. < gasp! >

So, now it is abundantly clear why so many broadcast resources are necessary, this being an event of truly global and universal importance and not just for the clearly secondary sensational nature of this ghastly crime. No, no, it's not that all. Certainly not.

But then again, perhaps I'm just not capable of deciding for myself exactly what is important.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Bending Over For Big Business (again)

Federal agencies of this Republican dominated government never seem to tire of rewarding big business. And so it continues to be so.

Now the EPA, once again casting its duties to the wind, is proposing that the operators of factory farms decide for themselves whether federal permits are needed for waste discharges into the waterways.

WASHINGTON, DC, June 23, 2006 (ENS) - Factory farms could decide if they need a federal permit to discharge animal waste into lakes, rivers and streams under a proposal issued Thursday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency said the proposed rule "furthers the statutory goal of restoring and maintaining the nation’s water quality," but critics contend it lets some of the nation’s largest polluters off the hook. [...} Some of the largest facilities have capacities that exceed one million animals and EPA estimates the nation’s CAFOs produce some 500 million tons of animal waste annually. [...] The revised proposal allows CAFO operators to define what constitutes pollution discharge and to decide if they should apply for a Clean Water permit.

If the operators that land apply manure, litter or processed wastewater decide the discharge from their facilities is only "agricultural stormwater," they do not need to apply for a permit, according to the proposed rule.

While we're at it, why don't we let them decide for themselves if those nasty inspections of meat and poultry are still necessary? Or what nature of feed can be used? And really, if a cow appears sick and unsuitable for the food supply, why have the government second guess those warm and fuzzy factory farm operators? It's all just become too burdensome. Live and let live.

This hits the nail on the head.

NRDC attorney Melanie Shepherdson said the agency is "abdicating its responsibility to protect the public."

I couldn't agree more.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Best Laid Plans

When I began this blog more than one year ago, I had visions of eventually offering a viable alternative to the other well known left-leaning blogs. (In fact when one individual asked why my painting diaries, posted elsewhere, were not posted here. I thought of them as far too frivolous.) What was I thinking? I have neither the time nor knowledge to blog at that level. But though things have not turned out to reflect my original vision, this isn't GBCW.

Instead, this blog is a small (very small) addition to the family of left-leaning blogs and not the alternative that I had originally envisioned. And that's okay. It is what it is, as they say. I will keep on offering the kind of limited coverage stories and snark that has been here since May of 2005.

In the same way, my activism is more limited than I would like. My schedule doesn't allow much more for me. But that too is okay, I must balance activism with the other demands on my time, including my young son. He is more than deserving of my attention.

And so it goes.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Access.  That's what it's all about.  Better to receive limited and sanitized information than to bite the hand that feeds you, because doing so might mean that you would actually have to go out and locate other sources.  But no problem, reporters travelling to Guantanmo Bay are usually led around by the hand and force fed.

NYT Link

Reporters who visit Guantánamo are usually reluctant to criticize the military publicly because it controls their access to the base. Once there, reporters are paired with "minders," who organize and restrict their movements and escort them around the grounds.

Now, in the wake of suicides by three Guantanamo Bay inmates, reporters have been asked to leave the Naval base.

Last Wednesday, after spending four days reporting from the United States Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, three newspaper reporters and a photographer were ordered off the island by the Pentagon.

Oh my, ordered off the island, and it wasn't even put to a tribal vote!  But apparently, one of the reporters may have heard too much.  

The Charlotte Observer said its reporter, who was originally assigned to write a profile on a military commander at the base, may have obtained too many details about the military's response to the suicides, leading the Pentagon to impose new restrictions on reporters.

Can there really be too many details?  Well, if there's nothing to hide it shouldn't be a problem, right?  But, it's okay, because the Pentagon just wanted all reporters to be treated equally.

A Pentagon spokeswoman, Cynthia Smith, said it was unfair for those three reporters to be allowed at Guantánamo when others had been denied access. "We want to be fair and impartial," Ms. Smith said. "We couldn't just give them an exclusive."

Right.  But maybe this had something to do with it.

Rick Thames, the editor of The Charlotte Observer, said the Pentagon was unhappy with articles Mr. Gordon had filed, including an account of a morning staff meeting on June 12 led by Colonel Bumgarner.

And those damned Gitmo detainees, you just can't trust them.

Mr. Gordon had quoted Colonel Bumgarner as telling the staff, "The trust level is gone," referring to the detainees. "They have shown time and time again that we can't trust them any farther than we can throw them." Mr. Thames of The Observer said, "We can't be certain, but we believe the Pentagon was uneasy with close-up access to the operations of the prison at a time of crisis," adding, "Clearly, they were at odds over this."

And if you can't trust a Gitmo detainee the distance of a throw, who can you trust?  But if they are throwing detainees, maybe that's the crux of the problem.  But maybe I'm wrong and this is really the crux.

DOD Link

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2006 - Detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are dangerous men, and the best place to deal with them is in military courts, President Bush said here today. [...]"I'd like to close Guantanamo," he said. "But I also recognize that ... we're holding some people that are darn dangerous and that we better have a plan to deal with them in our courts."

Darn dangerous those detainees may be, but there is apparently no danger in the dying (or dead) independent media.  But wait, the foreign media are apparently not subject to the level playing field.

Ms. Smith, the Pentagon spokeswoman, said that there had been no change in Pentagon policy regarding the media and that reporters from three overseas news organizations -- Deutsche Welle, Le Parisien and The Times of London -- are to visit this week.

But really, who reads those foreign papers anyway?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

She Who Shall Not Be Named

Sorry, I just couldn't bring myself to put Ann Coulter's name in the title. Here is my take on her "career" and "works".

She, like Howard Stern, is a performance artist. Both have a shtick. Howard does his shock jock shtick and Ann does her outrage incitement, via books and appearances. Both draw attention and earn considerable income from the niches they inhabit.

Both will continue to continue with their respective shticks as long as the attention and money keeps coming in. Given the attention directed at her and her latest "work", Ann will continue to pursue the course that has brought her fame and wealth.

I don't believe for a minute that anything she writes or says in public reflects her actual views. What is reflected is her desire to continue in her present lifestyle, nothing more. When the attention stops, so does the money.

Friday, June 16, 2006

More YearlyKos

I've had a few days to consider the impact of the YearlyKos convention. It still amazes me that progressive bloggers were able to draw the list of luminaries that appeared at the Las Vegas convention. All those bloggers (1000 or so) were acknowledged in a big way. And, of course, it is their support (and money) that is now being sought.

Have progressive bloggers become just another interest group (or source for cash)? Not quite. Unlike single issue interest groups, the bloggers are not necessarily in agreement. Views vary amongst them. (Although there is a something of an accord on certain issues.) As such, attempts to corral the support of progressive bloggers may be difficult, if not impossible.

Did visiting politicians waste their time? Perhaps, if the intent was to draw uniform support for their candidacy. Nothing that I saw would lead me to believe otherwise, not even the posh Mark Warner party. (Progressive bloggers are nothing if not perceptive.) But those speakers who appeared in support of pet issues (energy policy, science) may find that their time was well spent. Many of these bloggers are dedicated activists, persistent in their respective issues. For these progressive bloggers, the panel discussions often provided new knowledge and served to reenergize a particular interest, with the assistance of a famous face.

In any event, it is now clear that proggressive bloggers are a force which the present system must acccomodate.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


I had the pleasure of attending the Yearlykos convention of liberal bloggers. During the many panels I had the opportunity to hear Howard Dean, Senators Reid and Boxer, Joseph Wilson, Wesley Clark, former Virginia Governor Mark Warner and cartoonist Tom Tomorrow amongst many others. It was a milestone for bloggers, about 1000 or so being present. Some see it as a sellout, especially for the festivities hosted by Mr.Warner. I don't agree. Bloggers are independent, not a cohesive group. If some sold out, others will not necessarily follow.

By and large, the bloggers I met were intelligent and articulate. I fully expect that this will not change. And bloggers will continue to be a force for change.

A Vegas sunrise is seen below. More to follow.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Caption This Kate Harris Photo

Knock yourself out. Add your caption below. Best caption wins an all expense-paid trip to the offices of Survivor Left Blogistan where the lucky winner will have have the opportunity to meet the staff during a lavish luncheon.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Feds Compicit in Rainforest Destruction?

A lawsuit has been filed alleging that mahogany has been illegally stripped from Peruvian rainforest and, adding insult to injury, has been imported into the US without intervention of relevant federal agencies.

ENS Link

NEW YORK, New York, June 6, 2006 (ENS) – Doubly illegal, mahogany from the Peruvian Amazon is being imported into the United States for deluxe furniture under the noses of three federal agencies, according to a lawsuit filed today by two Peruvian indigenous groups and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a U.S. conservation organization. The suit was filed in the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York City.

Nearly all of Peru’s mahogany exports are logged illegally, the groups say. Importing it into the United States is illegal because it violates the U.S. Endangered Species Act and a major international treaty, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the lawsuit charges.

Most of it, some 80 percent, comes to the US.

“Millions of dollars worth of Peruvian mahogany enters U.S. ports every year in violation of U.S. and international law,” said Ari Hershowitz, NRDC’s Latin America BioGems project director. “While U.S. border control agencies look the other way, the rainforest and the communities that depend on them to survive are being plundered.”

Several federal agencies have been named as defendants, as well as several corporations.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, and three U.S. importers - Bozovich Timber Products of Evergreen, Alabama; T. Baird International Corporation of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania; and TBM Hardwoods of Hanover, Pennsylvania.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Too Much to Digest

Have you had a funny feeling in your stomach lately?  And are you thinking that it's the result of frustration with the Bush fiasco du jour.  Maybe it's not.

No, this particular feeling may involve the ingestion of GMO crops.  Huh?

(A prior posting directly below addressed the potential problems of GMO trees.)

GMO crops that are engineered for herbicide tolerance have special enzymes that render certain herbicides non-toxic.  The surrounding plants suffer the result of herbicide application while the GMO crops remain.  But the non-toxic version of the herbicide may again become toxic after ingestion.      

OCA Link

Pioneer Hi-Bred's website boasts that their genetically modified (GM) Liberty Link corn survives doses of Liberty herbicide, which would normally kill corn. The reason, they say, is that the herbicide becomes "inactive in the corn plant." They fail to reveal, however, that after you eat the GM corn, some inactive herbicide may become reactivated inside your gut and cause a toxic reaction. In addition, a gene that was inserted into the corn might transfer into the DNA of your gut bacteria, producing long-term effects. These are just a couple of the many potential side-effects of GM crops that critics say put the public at risk.

Liberty herbicide, glufosinate ammonium, is produced by Pioneer.  Used on corn, the non-toxic version is called N-acetyl-L-glufosinate or NAG.

The problem is that the NAG, which is not naturally present in plants, remains there and accumulates with every subsequent spray. Thus, when we eat these GM crops, we consume NAG. Once the NAG is inside our digestive system, some of it may be re-transformed back into the toxic herbicide. ...

Testing of NAG has shown that it does become reactivated but not in a uniform fashion.

...In rats fed NAG, for example, 10% of it was converted back to glufosinate by the time it was excreted in the feces. Another rat study found a 1% conversion. And with goats, more than one-third of what was excreted had turned into glufosinate.

Naturally, our own federal government has left a great void in this area.  Testing protocols have yet to be established.

Perhaps a more critical question may be whether infants or fetuses are impacted with smaller doses. A January 2006 report issued by the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Office of Inspector General said that studies demonstrate that certain pesticides easily enter the brain of young children and fetuses, and can destroy cells. That same report, however, stated that the EPA lacks standard evaluation protocols for measuring the toxicity of pesticides on developing nervous systems. Scientists at the agency also charged that "risk assessments cannot state with confidence the degree to which any exposure of a fetus, infant or child to a pesticide will or will not adversely affect their neurological development."...

And then there's the usual question of industry involvement.

Furthermore, three trade unions representing 9,000 EPA workers claimed that the evaluation techniques used at the agency were highly politicized. According to a May 24, 2006 letter to the EPA's administrator, the unions cited "political pressure exerted by Agency officials perceived to be too closely aligned with the pesticide industry and former EPA officials now representing the pesticide and agricultural community."

The bottom line:

...Herbicide tolerant (HT) crops are a particularly big money-maker for biotech companies, because when farmers buy HT seeds, they are required to purchase the companies' brand of herbicide as well. In addition, HT crops dramatically increase the use of herbicide, which further contributes to the companies' bottom line.

Money talks.