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Saturday, June 28, 2003

ART IMITATES LIFE (UNFORTUNATELY)

A NYT article profiles a case in Texas where, "19 illegal immigrants died from the oppressive heat in a truck ferrying them through South Texas." This immediately reminded me of the HBO series The Wire, which follows a group of Balitmore cops on the job. This season the case they are working on is the suspected murder of 14 female illegal immigrants who died trapped in a ship container en route to the Baltimore port. I've been sucked in by the Sopranos, Six Feet Under, and now The Wire. Check it out on Sunday nights.
GITMO

Another long piece from NYT Magazine examines the situation at Guantanamo Bay, where the US is holding 680 prisoners classified as enemy combatants, as opposed to P.O.W.s. This means they can be held indefinitely and are denied the basic rights given to P.O.W.s under the Geneva Convention. Some are juveniles. In a touch of irony, they are also recieving the best healthcare of their lives and have gained 13 pounds on average. An excerpt:

"What is normal for teenagers who were made to fight in a war? Do we have any idea? Could being locked up ever be therapeutic? I mean these as real questions, not rhetorical jabs, and I recently visited Guantanamo to try to get a sense of how, a year and a half after its creation, the detention-and-interrogation center, this place where hundreds of people are being held indefinitely so that we might find out what they know, had evolved. What kind of community had grown here, and what might it say about America's attitude toward these prisoners of war?"
"A NATION OF GRINDERS"

David Brooks looks at the good old-fashioned work ethic, as illustrated by Honest Abe, in this week's NYT Magazine (registration required).

Friday, June 27, 2003

"OLD AND IN THE WAY"

Victor Davis Hanson's weekly column is up at NRO. I haven't read it yet, but I know it will be good.

UPDATE: It's good.
WHO SAYS CHICKENS CAN'T FLY?

Ok, I wouldn't go this far to solve my chicken problem.
FAST FOOD NATION

If you read the book Fast Food Nation, you know that cash strapped school districts have struck exclusive food and beverage deals w/ companies such as Coca Cola, Pizza Hut etc. Opponents of the idea argue that this creates a "cradle to grave" customer for these companies and provides no healthy options for the kids. The Seattle school district is re-thinking its current deal w/ Coca Cola, which expires this summer. Read about it here.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

SAY GOODBYE TO TELEMARKETERS

Beginning on Friday, June 27th, consumers will be able to go online and register their phone number on the "The National Do Not Call Registry". It's supposed to block 80% of telemarketing phone calls. Go here and follow the instructions.

UPDATE: Here's a better link than the one I provided above, http://donotcall.gov/ . Also, even though you sign up now, the regulation doesn't go into effect until October, so don't expect a slowdown in call volume until then.
FLASHBACKS

The online version of "The Atlantic" magazine has a great section called "Flashbacks" where it profiles articles from its archives that are relevant to current events. Here's the synopsis for one article that was particularly interesting:

"When the Supreme Court this week ruled in favor of affirmative action, Justice Thomas expressed an emphatic dissenting opinion. In 1987, when Thomas was chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity commission, Juan Williams profiled Thomas and traced the development of his views on affirmative action." Read the whole thing here (warning, their articles are very, very long, but never dull).

They have some other great articles in the current issue as well. "The Hard Edge of American Values" offers a vision of U.S. foreign policy in a changing world. Oh, just go to the site and browse.

UPDATE: If you get through the Clarence Thomas piece, take minute to read this op-ed piece by Marueen Dowd from the NYT. I linked to the Seattle PI version so you don't have to register. All I can say is "WOW".

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

A new study reveals that people, "who eat a Mediterranean-style diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil and fish have at least a 25 percent reduced risk of dying from heart disease and cancer, researchers reported in a study being published today."
STICKS & STONES

I need to kick this Bush streak, but here's another article examining the language Bush uses in his public remarks. The implication is that the President uses, "negatively charged emotional language," to scare the country in order to create support for his policies. An excerpt:

"To create a dependency dynamic between him and the electorate, Bush describes the nation as being in a perpetual state of crisis and then attempts to convince the electorate that it is powerless and that he is the only one with the strength to deal with it. He attempts to persuade people they must transfer power to him, thus crushing the power of the citizen, the Congress, the Democratic Party, even constitutional liberties, to concentrate all power in the imperial presidency and the Republican Party." Well, I'll concede the part about the Democratic party (duh), and Ashcroft, with the Shrub's consent, has arguably tried to stifle a couple civil liberties.

Here's the kicker.

"Bush's political opponents are caught in a fantasy that they can win against him simply by proving the superiority of their ideas. However, people do not support Bush for the power of his ideas, but out of the despair and desperation in their hearts. Whenever people are in the grip of a desperate dependency, they won't respond to rational criticisms of the people they are dependent on. They will respond to plausible and forceful statements and alternatives that put the American electorate back in touch with their core optimism. "

We are but sheeple, incapable of independent thought. Please enlighten me.

Anyway, she does touch on one thing Bush has failed to do. He failed to give us all a collective "charge" following 9/11. Through personal initiative, many people donated to Red Cross, gave blood, even enlisted in the military. However, I never heard Bush tell us to drive less, plant a victory garden, save scrap metal etc. in order to make a material, significant contribution. People were willing to make a sacrifice, we just weren't quite sure what was needed. Instead he told us to buy duct tape and plastic sheeting. Um, ok. I guess duct tape can fix just about anything.
BUSH LIED!

At least according to some people. Here's an article from The New Republic that tries to make the case. Many people think the authors make a pretty convincing case. I wouldn't know b/c I haven't read it yet. Yet

I guess b/c I never relied on any proclamations made by Bush et al to reach my own conclusion regarding Iraq, I'm not really interested in the whole "he lied" screech. If there's some truth to it, he'll certainly pay for it. So be it. His critics absolutely hate him and will do just about anything to bring him down. Here's a couple excerpts from emails I got from a very liberal Democratic friend who used to work in D.C.

"If I knew it would do any good, I would abandon my job search and move to DC and go to any end of the earth to ensure that Bush doesn't see a second term. I can't imagine what he'd be like in a second term, with no restraint.

Taking the White House back has to be the paramount priority for every self-described liberal, progressive and left-leaning activist in the nation. In our lifetime, I do not believe that there has been a more important niche in time to drastically alter the direction of the country and the composition of its leadership
."

Sound like the conservative attack on Clinton while he was President? Politics as usual, I guess.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

BUSH LIED?

Well, here we go. How will the conspiracy theorists spin this one? According to CNN, nuclear components have been found hidden in the backyard of an Iraqi scientist. The scientist is cooperating with U.S. officials.

"The CIA has in its hands the critical parts of a key piece of Iraqi nuclear technology -- parts needed to develop a bomb program -- that were dug up in a back yard in Baghdad, CNN has learned.

The parts were unearthed by Iraqi scientist Mahdi Obeidi who had hidden them in his back yard under a rose bush 12 years ago under orders from Qusay Hussein and Saddam Hussein's then son-in-law, Hussein Kamel.

U.S. officials emphasized this was not evidence Iraq had a nuclear weapon -- but it was evidence the Iraqis concealed plans to reconstitute their nuclear program as soon as the world was no longer looking.

The parts and documents Obeidi gave the CIA were shown exclusively to CNN at CIA headquarters in Virginia.

Obeidi told CNN the parts of a gas centrifuge system for enriching uranium were part of a highly sophisticated system he was ordered to hide to be ready to rebuild the bomb program
."

In a related development, NBC reports the following (via InstaPundit):

"The more significant discoveries were related to Saddam’s attempts to rebuild chemical and biological arsenals like those he was known to have used during the Iran-Iraq War of the late 1980s, when he was supported by the U.S. government.

Sources told NBC News’ Jim Miklaszewski that within just the past week, U.S. investigators had found two shipping containers filled with millions of much more recent documents relating to chemical and biological weapons.

One of the documents, from 2001, was titled “Document burial and U.N. activities in Iraq,” the sources said. It gave detailed instructions on how to hide materials and deceive U.N. weapons inspectors, the sources said.

Other documents related to the concealment of VX nerve gas, the sources said
."

Now, you can argue whether or not Saddam posed an "imminent" threat justifying a pre-emptive strike, but it is becoming increasingly clear that he had every intention of reconstituting WMD programs ASAP. I think that case was convincingly made by many before the war, but this new find certainly supports that argument.

CHICKENS AS SUBURBAN PETS?

If my neighbors' chickens are any barometer, I hope this trend does not catch on. Or maybe I should just get a pet fox.
"WINNING AFTER ALL"

Victor Davis Hanson writes a weekly column. The latest is here. His entire archive is here. He does a great job of putting current events in proper historical perspective. Worth reading every week. Keep this in mind if you read him; he's a lifelong Democrat.
NEW MOVIE

This one looks pretty cool. It's from the director of "Trainspotting".
13 DOWN, 1 TO GO

Ed Viesturs, a Bainbridge Island resident, has climbed 13 of the 14 highest peaks in the world. He reached the top of 26,658-foot Nanga Parbat on Monday. If he summits Annapurna next year he will become the first American to climb all 14. Oh, and he's never used supplemental oxygen.
"THE AVOCADO: PURE GOLD"

Here you go Julie (registration required).

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Seeing this article about protests at a meeting of agriculture experts reminded me of another recent piece I found via Winds Of Change. The protesters in Sacramento, "claim the gathering is an attempt by corporate farming to push bio-engineered crops on starving countries..."

I don't know how I feel about bio-engineered crops, but it certainly sounds bad, dangerous even (Frankenfood?). How do you account for this story then? Here's an excerpt:

"Taking a gene from one species and adding it to another is a bit like taking a word from a foreign language and adding it to an English dictionary. If it is a word that English does not have but could usefully employ (schadenfreude, for instance), then it can be an improvement, and it carries few risks. Genes, like words, are all just combinations of existing letters. Adding one gene to the 40,000 genes in a rice plant is more momentous than adding three words to the 120,000 in the pocket Oxford English Dictionary, but not much more so.

The word ‘carotenoid’ is not in my Pocket Oxford English Dictionary (1969 edition). It means a protein that is the precursor of vitamin A, a crucial ingredient of vision. The genes for making carotenoids are lacking in human beings, which is why we must eat vitamin A or go blind. The gene is also lacking in rice grains, so a person who subsists largely on rice may go blind. Approximately 500,000 children in the developing world suffer this exact fate every year, and determined efforts by aid agencies to get vitamin supplements or green vegetables to these people have so far failed.

Along comes Ingo Potrykus of Switzerland with a simple solution. Why not genetically engineer a rice plant so that it has the genes to make carotenoids in its grains? So he took the necessary genes from a daffodil and put them into rice. In effect, he added the word ‘carotenoid’ to the rice plant’s book. He soon had a form of rice that was identical in every respect, except that eating just 200 grams of it a day gave you a daily sufficiency of vitamin A. (Further refinements, including the addition of vitamin E’s precursor, have since made the rice even more health-giving.)

He then carefully negotiated away all the patents he had infringed, so that he could give the new ‘golden rice’ away free to peasants who could plant it in their fields. Since the rice would be self-fertile, there was nothing to stop the peasants he gave it to growing their own seed and giving it away to their neighbours. When he had finished in 2000, it was possible for the first time to envisage a realistic, practical and cheap way to prevent 500,000 children going blind every year.

Yet he found himself opposed and vilified by the so-called environmental movement, which was then enjoying a boom in donations from rich people disturbed by the half-truths, scare stories and wild predictions that they had been told about genetic engineering of plants. In vain did Potrykus make clear that his ‘golden rice’ would not enrich him, neither would it enrich any multinational company; it would damage no ecosystem, hurt no human being, invigorate no weed and assist no landlord; it would benefit the poor; it was not an American invention. It answered every one of the environmentalists’ excuses for their lucrative opposition to GM foods.

Still the Greens opposed it. More than two years have now passed and no governments have approved golden rice for use, frightened of the Green backlash if they do. Potrykus said to me recently, in his mild way, ‘Should I start to show pictures of blind children in the talks I give?’ ‘They would,’ I replied
."

Makes one think.
SPACE SHUTTLE INVESTIGATION UPDATE

Remember when NASA said it was very possible that the cause of the disaster might never be known? Well, it looks like the independent investigation baord has just about nailed down what happened on the flight.

RELATED NEWS: Thinking about the concept of space makes my head hurt, but looking at it is pretty cool. The Hubble telescope continues to send back incredible pictures, like this one of a set of young galaxies. To see all of the latest images, go here.
PROFILE OF TOMMY FRANKS

If you like miltary history, read this long profile of General Tommy Franks. Franks, chief of U.S. Central Command, recently announced his retirement.

(via IntelDump)
P.B.R. ME A.S.A.P.

Apparently Pabst beer is "blue-collar" no longer. It's the new "hipster" beverage of choice, at least according to this article (registration required). I was always partial to Milwaukee's Best myself.
NEW ENGLISH-LANGUAGE BAGHDAD NEWSMAG

Baghdad Bulletin has just published its first edition. It's a bi-weekly publication started by locals. Should be interesting.

(via BuzzMachine)

UPDATE: High hopes dashed; it's pretty weak. Most articles seem to be written by westerners in Iraq, and in some cases westerners located in the U.S. and the U.K.
SEATTLE PARKS & RECREATION TRAIL MAPS

Here's the homepage for Seattle Parks & Recreation's "The Trail Program". Go here if you want to find detailed maps of the trail systems throughout Seattle.
MR. VEDDER IS A CUBS FAN

Eddie Vedder sang "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" at a Chicago Cubs game last Friday. Here's a link to a link to the interview and song. I know Ed spent at least part of his childhood in the Windy City.
POSH 'N' BECKS

For those interested in soccer news, David Beckam's transfer from Manchester United in England to Real Madrid in Spain provides an entertaining side-show. My opinion on this matter? FORZA JUVE!
"DEMOCRATS GO OFF THE CLIFF"

David Brooks has more interesting analysis of the current state of the Democratic party in an article in The Weekly Standard, including this tidbit:

"And there is a mountain of evidence that the Democrats are now racing away from swing voters, who do not hate George Bush, and who, despite their qualms about the economy and certain policies, do not feel that the republic is being raped by vile and illegitimate marauders."

As a "swing voter", I think he's dead-on.

(via OpinionJournal)

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