Sunday, June 25, 2006

Robert F. Kennedy = Danger Boy!

If “living dangerously” is questioning the status quo then count me in. As a precinct chair, and election judge in my area I was told that I could pick up the voting machines for my area on Monday evening. I asked if I was supposed to take them to the polling place upon picking them up and the answer was no, take them home, as long as you get them there by 6 a.m. I got to the pickup area, and the machines had already been picked up by the republican election judge. I doubt that any changes were made since I do live in a distinctly red area. However, it takes two minutes of unsupervised access to these machines to corrupt them. Robert Kennedy is not the only one ascertaining that the 2004 vote was rigged. There were over a million claims on election day. To pretend that nothing is going on, that everything is fine and that machines are 100% accurate is a fallacy that is being fed to the public by those who don’t want them to be curious. This is the most important part of our democracy.

It doesn’t matter how many people register to vote.
It doesn’t matter how many people are indignant and come out to vote.
If the machines are inaccurate or are being corrupted by the political machines in this country, our democracy is a joke. We need a paper trail. We need accuracy in our voting. Period.

June 25, 2006
Another Kennedy Living Dangerously
San Francisco
ONE of
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s family mementos is a boyhood photo of himself in the Oval Office with his uncle President John F. Kennedy. Then 9, Mr. Kennedy — who is still known as Bobby — had just given the president a spotted salamander in a small vase. The salamander appears to be dead.
"He does not look well," President Kennedy told Bobby as they observed the slimy pet. The president is prodding it with a pen, to no avail. "I was in denial," Bobby Kennedy said, explaining that he had probably doomed the salamander by keeping it in chlorinated water.
Not to attach too much significance to a dead salamander, but, oh, what the heck: the photo distills some Bobby Kennedy essentials — his matter-of-fact presence in royal circles, his boyish chutzpah and a lifelong appreciation for animals (even those he has killed).
Now 52, Mr. Kennedy, is one of the country's most prominent environmental lawyers and advocates. Clearly he was traumatized by his youthful act of environmental insensitivity and vowed as an adult to become a fervent protector of all the planet's salamanders. Or perhaps this is overreaching, seeing too much in a simple picture. (Sometimes a dead salamander is just a dead salamander). But it goes with the family territory — the speculating, overguessing — and it would seem particularly inevitable for anyone burrowing through life with the name Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Mr. Kennedy presided last week at the annual conference of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an assembly of 153 "keepers" from around the world charged with protecting the planet's most vulnerable watersheds, largely through litigation or threat thereof. On Wednesday the riverkeepers, baykeepers, coastkeepers, deltakeepers, channelkeepers and inletkeepers packed into three zero-emission hybrid-electric buses bound for Treasure Island on San Francisco Bay. There they ate dinner on biodegradable plates and took turns giving brief speeches. They spoke with earnest commitment, contempt for industrial polluters and awe for Bobby Kennedy.
"Thank you for fighting for our waterways, Bobby," said Leo O'Brien, executive director of San Francisco Baykeeper. "And thank you for fighting for democracy."
Recently, much of Mr. Kennedy's public focus has been on democracy, and he has taken increasingly audacious leaps into political swamps that transcend the environment. He roiled the blogosphere and cable news shows this month after declaring — in an article he wrote in Rolling Stone — that
Republicans stole the 2004 presidential election through a series of voting frauds. "I've become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004," Mr. Kennedy wrote in the exhaustive, strenuously footnoted article, which relied heavily on the published research of others.
He has repeated the accusation on Air America, the liberal radio network on which he is co-host of a program, and on a procession of television talk-'n'-shout fests (with
Stephen Colbert, Wolf Blitzer, Tucker Carlson, Chris Matthews). Mr. Kennedy is hitching his iconic name to a cause that has largely been consigned so far to liberal bloggers and which nearly all Democratic leaders and major news media outlets have ignored and which, unsurprisingly, Bush supporters have ridiculed. Tracy Schmitt, the Republican National Committee press secretary, accused Mr. Kennedy of "peddling a conspiracy theory that was thoroughly debunked nearly two years ago."
Farhad Manjoo, of, wrote: "If you do read the Kennedy article, be prepared to machete your way through numerous errors of interpretation and his deliberate omission of key bits of data."
It is impossible to read the Rolling Stone article without wondering how Mr. Kennedy's audacious accusations might relate to his philosophical evolution or even affect his political viability. Naturally he is asked all the time what he envisions next for himself, specifically, what he plans to run for.
"I'd say daily," he says of how often he's asked. As if the mantle of one of the country's top environmental advocates couldn't be enough to satisfy a Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy came close to running for attorney general of New York State this year. "Very, very close," he said, but he decided not to, fearing its effect on his wife, Mary, and their four children. (He has two other children from a previous marriage.)
Nonetheless, perhaps more than any other Kennedy of his generation, he is looked upon as the next potential vessel for Something Bigger. In words, temperament and actions, he conveys a frenetic vibe of restlessness that invites the questions "What else?" "What next?" "What more?"
At the Waterkeeper Alliance meeting he bounced from conversation to conversation, introducing people, touching bases, jiggling his right foot on the floor in rare idle seconds. He is also possessed of Kennedy looks and a riveting speaking style, despite a genetic neurological condition, spasmodic dysphonia, that he developed at age 40, which strains his speech and can make it sound as if he's choking up.
"He's the only speaker in the environmental movement who can say he'll speak for 20 minutes, then speak for 40 and you want him to go on longer," said Carl Pope, the executive director of the
Sierra Club.
Edward M. Kennedy said in a phone interview that his nephew "has a certain Pied Piper quality about him" and described a typical scene at the family compound in Hyannisport, Mass., in which his nephew transfixes 30 children with nature demonstrations, usually involving animals or fish.
One of the recurring themes within Mr. Kennedy's orbit of friends is the "Bobby story," an action or vignette that is quintessential to the man. In most cases a "Bobby story" involves some kind of spontaneous, often daredevil act, on the order of impatiently jumping off a chairlift, jumping off a cliff or being host to more than 100 people for hypercompetitive Capture the Flag games at his 10-acre home in Mount Kisco, N.Y. (which inevitably yield at least one emergency-room trip).
"He has a really intense metabolism," said Andrea Raisfeld, a close family friend and frequent participant in what she described as "these adult play dates."
Mr. Kennedy has always lived his life close to nature and to the edge. The third of 11 children born to Ethel Skakel Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, he used to fixate on ants from his crib, he said his mother recalls. As a boy he assembled a zoo at his family's home in Virginia, comprising about 40 reptiles and birds at any one time. He started racing homing pigeons at 7 and falconing at 9 and has always been given to the family penchant for recreational abandon: high-speed pursuits like skiing, water-skiing and hockey.
He was 14 in June 1968, when the rector of Georgetown Preparatory School woke him to tell him his father had been shot. He flew to California, where Senator Kennedy had just won the Democratic primary. He was at the hospital when his father died.
Mr. Kennedy graduated from
Harvard College and the University of Virginia Law School. He received a master's degree in environmental law from Pace University, where he is now a law professor.
In 1983 he entered a drug treatment program after having been arrested for heroin possession in South Dakota. He has been clean ever since and attends regular meetings, Mr. Kennedy said, declining to discuss his sobriety further for the record.
"I think, in a very dramatic way, Bobby's surviving, and his determination to get to a state of mind where he can be constructive, has been central to him," Senator Kennedy said. "He has faced some enormous challenges, some enormously serious challenges."
In 1984 his younger brother David Kennedy died of a drug overdose. In 1997 another brother, Michael, was killed after skiing into a tree while playing football on the slopes of Aspen, Colo. They are among the litany of exhaustively documented Kennedy tragedies, which create a prism through which to view Mr. Kennedy's penchant for risk taking and full-on recreation. At what point is he tempting fate?
As is the family custom, he is not given to public hand-wringing about his family losses. "I think God's in charge of that," he said of whether he lives or dies. "You're supposed to do what you're supposed to do. And whatever happens, happens."
Peter Kaplan, the editor of The New York Observer and one of Mr. Kennedy's closest friends since they met as college roommates, said that he doesn't worry. "Bobby really loves life, so he takes good care of himself," Mr. Kaplan said. "The second part of the answer is, he really loves his life, and he wouldn't live it any other way than with complete engagement with himself and with the outdoors."
Senator Kennedy, who like his nephew lost brothers well before their time, said, "I think he feels he has to live for a lot of people who've been lost."
The senator made these remarks in the context of his nephew's lifestyle and political work. Friends say Mr. Kennedy has undergone a gradual adjustment to his priorities through the Bush years. He has broadened his notion of "what you're supposed to do." He has, through his professional life, been identified with the environmental movement.
"Now it's much more fundamental than protecting the environment for Bobby," said his friend Laurie David, the liberal advocate and producer of "An Inconvenient Truth," the
Al Gore movie. "He fears that the country is being lost, that democracy is at stake."
Mr. Kennedy said that he had "continually expanded my realm of interest." His recent focus on the 2004 election exists on that continuum, he added.
He had heard low-grade rumblings about alleged abuses in Ohio, faulty voting machines and minority voters waiting hours in line at the polls. But he remained skeptical, or complacent. "I kept the same kind of deliberate blinders on that much of the media did," he said, bemoaning the news media's relative preoccupation with "Brad and Angelina and the
Duke lacrosse team."
THEN Mr. Kennedy spent Christmas skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho, at the home of Ms. David and her husband, Larry David, the "Seinfeld" creator and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" protagonist. Mr. David urged him to read a book on the 2004 election by the news media critic Mark Crispin Miller.
Mr. Kennedy did, and a few days later he was skiing with the Rolling Stone publisher, Jann S. Wenner, an old friend and Sun Valley homeowner. Mr. Kennedy suggested that Mr. Wenner commission a story on the "stolen election." Mr. Wenner said he would, provided Mr. Kennedy wrote it. He had written a much-discussed and much-challenged story for Rolling Stone last year linking childhood vaccines and a rise in autism.
After some hesitation, Mr. Kennedy said, he agreed to write the election article. Since it was posted on Rolling Stone's Web site on June 1, the Web has been ablog with a split between those who believe this is the biggest unreported story ever and those who think it's old news, discredited long ago. Mr. Kennedy said it's hard to prove that any election had been "stolen."
"If you're looking for proof and certitude, you're not going to find it," he said. Either way, Mr. Kennedy said he is committed to stoking the outrage of 2004, wherever it leads. "This is going to remain one of my central concerns for a while," he said, adding, "America should be indignant." But is it, beyond certain liberal airwaves and blogs? Congress has not exactly been rocked with speeches on the matter or with calls for investigations.
In a phone interview, Mr. Wenner said that
John Kerry, the big loser in 2004, "does not question the validity of the piece," hardly a signal of outrage.
Senator Christopher Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat and a longtime advocate of electoral reform, called the article "tremendously compelling." But not compelling enough to talk about it: Mr. Dodd's comments were relayed in a statement from his office.
Mr. Kennedy called the silence of leading
Democrats "a great disappointment," but declared himself undeterred. If anything, he said, the experience has left him more likely to run for office than before.
"It's all in God's hands," he said on Wednesday night at Treasure Island, a lemony sun setting over the Golden Gate Bridge. He was surrounded by environmentalists swapping stories about protecting the planet's liquid resources (and imbibing other liquid resources).
"I can only control my own conduct," Mr. Kennedy said, shrugging. "And I plan to go down fighting."

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Mad Cow: Symptoms Emerge Decades Later

Researchers Say Incubation Period for Mad Cow Disease May Be Longer Than Thought

June 23, 2006 -- Symptoms of mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE) may emerge more than 50 years after infection in humans, according to a new study.

Researchers say the findings show that the size of a potential mad cow disease epidemic may be much bigger than previously thought.

John Collinge of University College London and colleagues studied the only other known BSE disease outbreak in Papua New Guinea and found those infected in the initial outbreak in the 1950s were still developing the disease 50 years later.

Researchers say large segments of the U.K. population have been exposed to BSE prions by eating infected meat. So far about 160 cases of the human variant of mad cow disease (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, vCJD) have been identified in the U.K., with cases also reported in other countries. Prions are unconventional proteins that are behind mad cow disease, vCJD, and other types of degenerative diseases.

Recent estimates on the eventual size of a BSE outbreak are based on current numbers of vCJD patients. But researchers say determining the incubation period for the disease is critical to predicting the true extent of an epidemic and has been unknown until now.

Mad Cow May Wait to Emerge

In the study, published in The Lancet, researchers studied the only example of a human prion disease epidemic, a disease called kuru. Kuru is caused by cannibalism and reached epidemic proportions in the parts of Papua New Guinea where the consumption of dead relatives -- as a mark of respect and mourning -- occurred through the 1950s.

Between 1957 and 2004, the total number of kuru cases was more than 2,700. The average time before symptoms emerged was 12 years but was more than 50 years in some cases.

The last year of birth recorded for a patient with the disease was 1959, and researchers assumed that transmission of the disease by cannibalism stopped when the practice ceased by 1960.

However, they identified 11 people in the region who were diagnosed with new symptoms of kuru from 1996 to 2004, which meant that incubation periods for the disease ranged from 34 to 56 years and may have been even longer.

Genetic analysis showed that people recently diagnosed with kuru had a particular gene variation that is associated with extended periods of incubation and resistance to the disease.

They say the results suggest that the incubation time for kuru and other BSE diseases, including mad cow disease and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, may be much longer than previously thought.

As a result, Collinge says current predictions of the size of a human BSE epidemic may be substantially underestimated.

Miami Vice
I have to weigh in on this recent arrest of the “terrorist cell” in, where is it, Florida? Ok. When I see something like this I can’t help but get a little skeptical. From what I gather, the government is not only monitoring phone calls and emails it is also monitoring bank activity. With all this monitoring, they still had to send some guy into an impoverished, BLACK neighborhood, to a group of young men meeting for a prayer group and start suggesting ways to make some cash? I mean, seriously, this is how our government with all its access and unlimited resources is conducting its War of Terror? It reminds me of these drug lords in massive mansions surrounded by machine gun clad guards living their lives unscathed while the drug war gets waged on kids in the projects. For all the discussions with suspicious international operators being monitored and money being tracked all of over the world, this is it? Did you see their faces? They looked stunned. Some looked petrified. Can you imagine one of these kids actually following through with one of these plans? I know that one of the things that the “enemy” does is recruit disenfranchised youths…but in Miami? The other thing is, these guys aren’t even Muslims. These boys were studying the bible. The warehouse they were meeting in had no weapons, no blueprints, no propaganda, no training videos, nothing. I am under the impression that they have video and audio of these guys requesting weapons, radios, vehicles and uniforms, I also have a feeling that there was some posturing here. My feeling is, and of course, I can be so completely wrong, but regardless, I see a big fat carrot. It’s like going up to starving people and saying “wanna eat? Come with me, we might need to break in, but there’s a big buffet of food that you can help yourself, help your family to…all you have to do is...” I don’t pretend to know the specifics. I just think with all the money floating around – billions of dollars – going to serious threats, busting a prayer group enticed into doing the wrong thing is just another example of how completely whacked our government is right now.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Friendship’s End
I have just experienced an emotional meat grinder.
Not pleasant.
Not at all.
Having someone whom you have known for twenty years, had hoped to reconnect with, turn around and take you down for things that happened ten to fifteen years ago is brutal. I realize that there are some people that have expectations when it comes to friendships. Expectations that are not shared.

I have found that my eldest has this trait. It is harmful not only to others but to him as well. He is chronically disappointed in people. He has this intangible checklist that he applies to his friends, furrowing his brow and shaking his head as he applies an X to the offended expectation. Recently, a friend made plans with him and when he was on his way over to this friend’s house, he saw the friend with other friends on their bikes going the opposite direction. He called out to Josh and said “come on, we’re going to get something to eat.” Josh declined.
X – changing plans without notification.
His feelings were hurt, so of course he got angry. They had plans, he said hotly, he blew me off.
Well, his friend is not really a leader, more of a follower. He was hungry and he invited Josh along.
The one good thing about Josh in this situation is he is open to other perspectives. He realized that he had missed an opportunity to meet more friends, and did head out to meet up with them.
It causes so much hurt and anxiety carrying around all these feelings of disappointment and rejection. I would think that it causes a deepening of that pain when the other person seems so nonchalant, almost mocking in her disregard for the damage she has caused in her wake. The saddest part of all is that it isn’t a lack of care, it is a complete obliviousness. That other person has no idea that, perhaps, irreparable harm is being wrought on the friendship and on the other person.
It’s all so tragic.
No amount of explanation, no amount of true remorse can possibly undo a pain that has existed for such a long period of time. I always believed that we had a bond. I always believed that no matter what she did, no matter where she was, she would know that I loved her. All this time, I guess delusionally, I believed that feeling would prevail. Now I find that she was left with a gaping wound upon my departure. A huge void that I caused in her life. It’s not a good feeling to know that you have hurt people. Especially people that you have loved for a long time. Especially when you thought they remained confident, even during times of absence.
It’s even harder having someone judge your present life on not only plans they expected you to fulfill being the person that you are, but on your past behavior. I would like to think that I am a significantly different person than I was ten, fifteen or twenty years ago. How could anyone be the same when experiencing life fully? I felt so judged. I felt that all the strides I have made in self- acuity vanished like so much water vapor. My friend kept reinforcing her position with other people’s commentary about my behavior, actions, etc. constantly interjecting from the point of view of my ex-husband. I had been her idol, she said, and that’s when I realized how similar she is to my ex-husband. They both put me up on a pedestal, involuntarily, and when I inevitably plummeted from this high perch of expectation, they were both there with their imaginary clipboards making X’s. I am just a person. Just a flawed, bumbling around in the dark, human being. Anything above that is pure imagination.
I have come to find that the close friends I have now do not need my constant attention. They do not need me to continuously reinforce our friendship because they know they have it. I can count four close girlfriends that I could call and they would be at my door within the hour. I do not feel the weight of their needs on my back. I don’t feel the staggering weight of guilt when I don’t perform up to expectation. Each loves me as I am, and in turn, I love them for who they are. That’s the weirdest thing of all. I loved my friend throughout. It never changed. When everyone, and I mean everyone, told me to turn and run, it never changed. I have not been too concerned by what other people think since the first years of high school. My relationships with individuals is just that. Mine. I don’t care how others perceive it, it’s not theirs. The odd thing is that one of my ex’s best friend’s wives upon meeting this friend took me aside. She said “look at me, be careful of that one. She says she’s your best friend but she doesn’t have one good thing to say about you.” I offered excuses and she again said, "I don't know her, but she's not on your side." This from one of the sweetest people I have ever met. I dismissed it, as I dismissed all the advice about my friendship with her. She was my friend, and I know no one understood the things she did, but I did and that was enough.
But that wasn’t enough.
Unfortunately, I think we have reached the end of a long, painful trip.

I have countless memories of her and I that will always bring a smile to my face.
But, sadly, I think that’s it.
The X's are too dark and heavy in her heart.
The memories will have to suffice.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Circus Countdown - Less than one month!!
Houston, thankfully, is moving forward. Looking to our landmarks, seeing potential, and working for years to make it happen. Take the Bayou for instance. What a mess that was thirty years ago! It was an area to be avoided, with a horrendous stench.
Now. Ah! It’s lovely. Kayaks, picnickers, grass, flowers.
It’s amazing what a city can do, when it looks at something that “has always been” and says “we can do better”.
This is the approach that Houston has got to take in regards to the circus.
Oh, the circus!
Good clean family fun.
Escape the heat, go and see people and animals performing amazing tricks.
This year there are a staggering fourteen performances.
The people, well, they can choose to perform these tricks, these feats of acrobatic skill. But the animals? I wonder if anyone actually thinks whether the animals really want to be involved.
When I was little, I remember going to the circus. My mom had an aversion to it; she didn’t like the dogs in skirts, the whips around the horses, the filth of it all. But I went. I remember the smell. It was overwhelming. We sat pretty close to the front. I thought the trapeze artists were truly amazing. But then the animals came out. I distinctly recall a lump in my throat as the elephants went by holding each other’s tails, the streams of tears coming from their eyes.
The whips.
The shouts.
The sticks.
The fire.
And those dreadful clown!
I hated it.
I never went back.
But why did I hate it?
Some childhood sensitivity?
I don’t think so.
It was as obvious to me at six as it is to me today that this is a barbaric spectacle that has got to end. Gone are the days of the freak shows with people who twisted with deformities are subjected to ridicule and persecution.
But the circus remains.
Following is an excerpt from the Elephant Whisperer Darren Barnes on the websiste Circus News. It is an in depth account of how to train an elephant.
Come on along for some good family fun, don’t forget the kiddies!

“Kettiazhikkal, is when a new mahout is introduced to an elephant. The mahout will bring the elephant under control by using restraining devices at his or her disposal. The mahout will subject the elephant to torture and beatings, often hurling verbal abuse at the elephant in an attempt to scare the elephant into submission. When breaking an elephant, one front leg and the opposite rear leg are chained and secured to "tying-off" points. Two more elephant section personnel or mahouts will approach the elephant and commence stirring up and disturbing the elephant, encouraging the elephant to attack them. The trainer, or intended mahout, will then commence giving the elephant verbal commands and if the elephant disobeys (which, of course, it naturally will) then the other handlers or mahouts will proceed to attack and beat the elephant with whatever restraining devices are at their disposal. This continues until the elephant becomes exhausted and gradually stops resisting, showing a willingness to learn and thus obey the trainers commands. The elephant must be able to see which restraining device is causing the pain. This ensures the submissiveness of the elephant later on when it is approached by a handler, mahout or trainer carrying a particular restraining device, fearful and well aware of the pain that the restraining device is capable of dishing out. As I mentioned before, the same practice occurs in circus, wildlife park and zoo environments around the world, - it's just the way things are done.”

Now, let me ask you something. If you saw this going on in your neighbor’s backyard with his dog, what would you do? Would you yell at him to stop? Would you call the police? You would have a right to, since we have animal cruelty laws. But as the Elephant Whisperer says – it’s just the way things are done.
It’s always been this way.
People always had slaves.
Men always beat their wives.
Parents always beat their kids.
Just because a “wrong” has always existed, does not, simply because it is commonplace, somehow make it right. Just because it is commonplace for slaves to be traded at the town center, does not make it right. And just because something is happening in private, behind closed doors, out of public view, does not make it “none of our business”. Just because someone can close his front door and beat his wife, does not make it ok. It affects us all. Because it is wrong.
It might not be any of our business in some sense of the words, but it is, in face, all of our business. Because that woman must interact with society, the kids that have witnessed this abuse must interact with society, the abuser must interact with society. And those interactions with undoubtedly end up negative if no one gets involved.
But you don’t see that at the circus, do you? You don’t see tigers and lions paws being cut so they stand on their back legs. You don’t see the blowtorches, the electric cattle prods, the shock collars, the bull hooks sunk into these animals. That behavior isn’t exhibited under the big top. And why is that? If it is acceptable, common place, a “must” in the arena of animal handling? Why not be overt about it?
Because they know it is wrong.
It is wrong to punch primates in the face.
From the Animal Defenders International:
“We had eyewitness accounts of:
Horses and ponies being repeatedly whipped about the body and face during training;
Elephants hooked viciously with metal hooks, and being beaten mercilessly with metal bars, brooms, shovels, even pieces of old plumbing;
Camels beaten in the face with fiberglass rods;
Animals punched, kicked, and screamed at – screaming can make a full-grown lioness urinate with fear;
Lions and tigers beaten with metal bars and tent poles.
Horses and ponies spending up to 96% of the time tied on short ropes and in stalls and time in the ring is strictly controlled and restricted. The horses and ponies were shown to have a twelve inch tether from a loop at the front of their stall.
Tigers and lions spending between 75-99% of their time in their traveling cages, on the back of transporters, in severely cramped conditions.
Elephants were shown to be spending 70-98% of their time chained to the ground by two legs, only able to take one step forwards and one backwards.”

Good clean family fun. Don’t forget the cotton candy!
It is wrong to beat animals mercilessly. It is wrong to imprison them for up to 99% of their time. We are the stewards to the dependent beings on this planet, not their torturers.
What is the point of the circus? That some three-toothed, scrubby man in a threadbare costume can control huge majestic beasts? That a short, uneducated greasy guy can force a massive animal to stand on its forehead, or place its front feet on the back of the animal in front of it? Have you seen these people?

Is there some point I’m missing?
There is no educational value to this.
There is no gain to our city, except that once again we have a show for a multi-week engagement that relies solely on the torture and cruelty to our dependent animals for financial gain. We have seen repeatedly that Houstonians respond to entertainment that involves no wild animal performance. We see that circus bans are spreading not just across our country, but across the rest of the planet.
It is time, Houston. It is time to say “no thanks” to the traveling carnage known as the circus. There are plenty of sanctuaries with space available for these animals to retire.
It’s the least we can do.

As the kind compassionate people I know us to be.

Protest Schedule as follows:
Park at the strip center parking lot off Kirby just past Reliant Stadium. There's a sandwich shop there, park facing the street. We have signage, bring water and dress for the heat. A hat is suggested. I will have more details at the beginning of the month.

July 14 Friday 7:30 PM ARRIVE AT 5:30
July 15 Saturday 11:30 AM ARRIVE AT 9:30am
July 15 Saturday 3:30 PM ARRIVE AT 1:30
July 15 Saturday 7:30 PM ARRIVE AT 5:30
July 16 Sunday 5:30 PM ARRIVE AT 3:30
July 18 Tuesday 7:30 PM ARRIVE AT 5:30
July 19 Wednesday 7:30 PM ARRIVE AT 5:30
July 20 Thursday 7:30 PM ARRIVE AT 5:30
July 21 Friday 7:30 PM ARRIVE AT 5:30
July 22 Saturday 11:30 AM ARRIVE AT 9:30am
July 22 Saturday 3:30 PM ARRIVE AT 1:30
July 22 Saturday 7:30 PM ARRIVE AT 5:30
July 23 Sunday 1:30 PM ARRIVE AT 11:30am
July 23 Sunday 5:30 PM ARRIVE AT 3:30

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Interesting Story.....
A Mountain of Riches on Capitol Hill
By Tom Hamburger, Richard Simon and Faye Fiore
The Los Angeles Times
Thursday 15 June 2006
Annual disclosure data offer a look at the finances of lawmakers and their top aides.
Washington - A top aide to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands) reported Wednesday that he received more money than he previously disclosed from a lobbying firm that has come under scrutiny for its ties to Lewis.
The aide, Jeffrey Shockey, corrected his financial disclosure reports to reveal that his salary in 2004 from Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White totaled about $500,000 more than he had reported.
He also collected nearly $2 million from the firm as a payout when he left to return to work for Lewis in 2005.
The firm, whose partners include former Rep. Bill Lowery (R-San Diego), a longtime Lewis friend, is being examined as part of a federal investigation into the practice among lawmakers of slipping federal money for special-interest projects into spending bills.
Lowery's firm represents a number of cities, institutions and businesses in Lewis' district that have received federal funds. The firm also has helped Lewis raise tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, which helped his drive to gain the Appropriations Committee chairmanship in 2005.
On Friday, Shockey released advance copies of his disclosure report showing that he had received far more than had generally been known - $1.96 million - as a payout from the lobbying firm. On Wednesday, Shockey disclosed that in addition to that payment, he received a higher salary from the firm than previously reported, up from $1.5 million to over $2 million.
Lawyers for Shockey, who also had worked for Lewis before he joined the lobbying firm, said in a letter that the $1.5-million figure was his salary in 2003. They said the error involving his 2004 salary was discovered this week during a review of his financial accounts.
Shockey's high level of compensation - as he moved from Capitol Hill to the lobbying world and back again - shows the value corporate and other interests place on obtaining help in getting federal spending directives, known as earmarks, put onto federal spending bills.
Lewis and Shockey, through his lawyers, say they have done nothing wrong in the roles they have played in the earmarking process and have not been contacted by investigators. Shockey's lawyers point out that their client asked the Ethics Committee to review his compensation from the lobbying firm at the time he returned to public service.
Shockey's report was just one of hundreds released Wednesday by members of Congress and their senior aides. The annual disclosure reports offer a glimpse into the private financial affairs of lawmakers, and although assets and liabilities are detailed only within broad ranges, the information makes it clear that most legislators are well-off.
The reports show that at least 22 of California's 53 House members have assets of more than $1 million.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and her husband, investment banker Richard Blum, have assets that have been estimated to exceed $35 million. She filed one of the thickest reports: 172 pages.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), in her 10-page statement, reported that her assets consist almost entirely of a blind trust valued at $1 million to $5 million.
Investments by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and her husband include a St. Helena vineyard valued at $5 million to $25 million.
Several California lawmakers were given more time to file their reports, including Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), who previously has ranked among the wealthiest House members.
The report filed by Lewis and his wife, Arlene Willis, who is his chief of staff, showed them with assets valued at $715,000 to $1.6 million, with no liabilities.
According to the report, the 71-year-old congressman sold stock and a parcel of land in 2005 with a combined value of $30,000 to $100,000.
In the wake of several scandals that raised concerns about influence peddling on Capitol Hill, many lawmakers appear to be taking fewer trips paid for by special interests.
Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who has faced criticism for a 2002 visit to Scotland arranged by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, took no trips last year.
Earlier this year, Abramoff pleaded guilty to charges that included defrauding clients and engaging in schemes to bribe members of Congress.
Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (D-W.Va.), the subject of a federal probe into possible links between his personal business activities and his duties as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, on Tuesday released amendments to his disclosure reports from 1999 to 2004 to correct what he called "a limited number of inadvertent errors."
Also, he released a chronology showing how his assets grew from less than $550,000 in 2000 to Mollohan resigned from the House Ethics Committee earlier this year after federal agents began probing his personal finances.
Mollohan's 2005 disclosure statement revealed that he received a loan valued at $15,000 to $50,000 from Don and Laura K. Kuhns.
Laura Kuhns is a former Mollohan aide who invested in real estate with Mollohan and also heads a West Virginia foundation that received earmarks requested by the congressman. Mollohan reported that he repaid the loan from the Kuhnses with 6% interest.
Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.), the target of a bribery investigation by federal agents who last year found $90,000 in his kitchen freezer, has debts ranging from $130,000 to as much as $300,000, according to his report.
Jefferson acquired the debt last year without any significant change in his assets, the report indicates.
He had listed no liabilities in the previous two years.
Jefferson's debts include as much as $150,000 to two New Orleans banks and up to $50,000 on a revolving charge with MBNA, a subsidiary of Bank of America.
He also reported owing up to $100,000 to Noah A. Samara, chief executive of WorldSpace Inc., which works to provide digital satellite services to emerging markets in Africa and Asia.
Jefferson was caught on videotape accepting $100,000 from a business associate, whom he allegedly agreed to help win overseas telecommunications contracts in exchange for a third of the profits.
FBI agents later searched Jefferson's freezer and found $90,000 of that money wrapped in foil, according to an affidavit.
Jefferson has denied any wrongdoing. No charges have been filed, but his legal bills have begun to mount.
His disclosure report showed contributions to his legal defense fund totaling nearly $85,000.
Many lawmakers found a variety of ways to supplement their congressional salary, currently $165,200 a year for those not serving in top leadership positions.
The wives of six California House members - Republicans John T. Doolittle of Roseville, Richard W. Pombo of Tracy, Elton Gallegly of Simi Valley and Dana Rohrabacher of Huntington Beach; and Democrats Pete Stark of Fremont and Bob Filner of Chula Vista - earned money working on their husbands' campaigns.
Lawmakers are not required to list spouses' salaries on the forms. But Rohrabacher reported that his wife earned $41,055 from his campaign committee.
Stark said his wife was paid $2,400 a month to work on his campaign. Filner said his wife's salary was about $45,000.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and former President Clinton earned more than $8 million from speeches and book royalties.
The former president was paid for 43 speeches, collecting up to $350,000 for an appearance.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) earned $50,000 in royalties from a book about his dog, "My Senator and Me." He was one of about a dozen senators who received money from books. Boxer took in about $16,000 from a novel she wrote.
House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) reported $2,700 in slot machine winnings.
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) did better: He collected $853,492 in the Powerball lottery.
Marine Monument
Today, President Bush created the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine National Monument, protecting the marine life around the islands with the largest marine reserve on the planet, an area of almost 140,000 square miles, including 4,500 miles of coral reef habit.
In his remarks the President rightfully stated, “This is a big deal.”
The Monument will protect one of the last intact marine ecosystems in the world, one that is home to sharks, whales, extensive coral reefs, threatened sea turtles, and the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. It will be free from commercial extractive activities, allowing the entire marine ecosystem to continue to thrive for future generations.
By immediately creating a National Monument, the President jump-started efforts to protect the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands by at least a year. The Sanctuary process would have taken at least another year to complete. National monument designation also ensures protections are permanent, and not subject to periodic revision as they are with a national marine sanctuary.
For more information on the President’s actions, the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, and what today’s action means for the long-term protection of this remarkable ecosystem
please visit The Ocean Conservancy’s website.
What’s Next:
The proclamation creating the Monument charges the Dept. of Commerce and the Dept. of Interior to work with the State of Hawaii and the public to develop a management plan.
Repetitive History Musings
In I927, during an era when the Republicans held control over all three branches of the federal government, the levees in New Orleans were breached.
New Orleans was submerged.
Out of this wreckage, a man stood in the back of flatbed pickup, took hold of the airwaves, via radio, and began a grassroots revolution. He spoke out about the government’s inability to care for those in need, unwilling to provide any kind of security or healthcare safety net for its citizen, how it left the workers to the mercy of the big corporations, how they were being led into war. Huey Long, a common guy, started a fire that spread throughout the nation, because as we all know, when someone comes out of chaos and starts speaking truth, everyone stops. Everyone listens. Everyone follows. Because in the midst of uncertainty and strife, those that can put into words the thoughts, the frustrations, the desires of the masses is all that those held down need. That’s all they need. That’s what we all need, really.

We want to know that what we think, what we feel, what we morally stand behind, what be believe, what we know to be truth is going to be taken into account when the decisions are made. That is a huge part of the problem we are facing now, and I believe I have been commenting on it from the onset. Those in Washington, especially this administration live in a world that is completely out of touch with the rest of us. The two Americas syndrome. Those that say it doesn’t exist have simply bought in to or have serious investment in the way that the federal government’s business is being handled. The rest of us are acutely aware of the disconnect.
Anyway, this guy Huey, rose up and became governor of Louisiana, and eventually became a senator.
And was promptly assassinated.
Because this is how people in power deal with people who threaten them.
Standard operating procedures.
A reluctant conservative democrat, was the one that stepped up and took the lead, as Long had done, entering into American history with “The New Deal”. FDR took up the mantle from the executed son of Louisiana, the man that started the “Share the Wealth” programs that made him the rural poor darling, FDR took the lead of the groundswell and changed the course of America.
Conservatives are laughing and pointing at the democrats and liberals because they say we don’t have a leader. We have no clear points.
It is not the job of any man to answer to others. The liberals, the progressives of this country know what they stand for. Look at those that are progressive, not those that profess to be, and see their voting and quotable record.
The liberals are pretty transparent.
We want healthcare for everyone.
We want the same high quality education for everyone.
We want access to government funds for college education.
We want out of Iraq.
We want strict regulations on corporations.
We want strict lobbying regulations.
We want strict environmental controls enforced.
We want substantial progress on energy independence within the next five years.
We want oil companies to pay the royalties that have been waived for years.
We want subsidies for independent farmers, not corporate ones.
We want social programs that rehabilitate addicts.
We want work programs and counseling in prisons.

These are all pretty straightforward. Our goal, as human beings, is to live as those before us have directed. The core of every religion, when the whims of extremists are put aside, is to love and honor.
Love and honor.
You cannot pollute, kill, destroy, maim, torture, hinder, thwart or disrespect something or someone that you love and honor.
those that do these things in the name of their faith are out of touch with their faith or are simply using their faith as a way to get what they want. That is not what faith is all about. Those that we truly admire in history are the ones that put others before themselves. Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Caesar Chavez, Steven Biko, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Red Cross and Peace Corp volunteers, Doctors without Borders, the people that step up every single time there is a crisis and no cameras and arduously work to help people traumatized by nature or man.
I say it again. It’s all about love. You boil the Koran, the Bible, the Torah down and they all say the same thing – honor your Supreme Father and love one another.
Honor and love.
We are not doing that.
We have an Enron government and it needs to end.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

It’s sad how the average us citizen can be whipped into a frenzy – even when the news is manufactured. I wonder if all this rattling about immigration is just that. It is obviously a racial issue.
You really can’t deny that as fact.
All the focus, all the video has been the stealth night vision images of Mexicans, South or Central Americans stealing across the divide.
I have yet to see the Canadian footage.
The recent sweep “across the country” labeled “Return to Sender” (dry heave) seems to entail a lot of olive skin tones, and black hair.
Couldn’t really see any Canadians.
But then again, how do you distinguish a Canadian from an American? I mean, besides the red “mountie” outfit.
Considering the lack of peeps (that would be the sound not the people) emanating from our southern neighbors and the riotous ruckus that was present this past week about some crazy Canadians planning an attack on their own parliament (I might want those notes…), it does seem that our attention is, well, misdirected.
What is the problem exactly?
There are bad people in every ethnicity, color, creed, religion, in every part of the world. Why are we picking on the ones coming here to work? That seems so odd to me.
But at the same time, not.
Making “hot button” issues take center stage during election years is on every politicians “must do” list. Gay marriage, abortion, immigration, the war of terror. It’s sad, but most Americans take the bait that is fed to them, especially when it is repeated on 24 hour news stations, talk radio and splashed on every newspaper and magazine. When there’s all this attention on a subject, of course, people are going to look. Why wouldn’t they? Think about this. What if, Angelina and Brad had been able to have their baby like everyone else – no security, no isolation, no decoy baby (jk I don’t think they did that!). No pictures. No stories. No latest updates. No paparazzi. Do you think anyone would have said – gee, I wonder what’s going on with that baby? I doubt it. Look at Matt Damon. He’s a babus, and his wife just had a baby this weekend. Any fuss? Any sold out magazines with exclusives? Not a one. Couple of comments. Coupla pics. That was it.
Hot button topics. Shove into the front the issues that people get crazy about, and you can slip the stuff that they care about off stage left.
We need to stay focused. What are the things that affect you daily?
Air, water, land quality.
Safety – on a global scale.
The price of stuff.
Your work environment.
To name but a few.

How about gay marriage? Does it affect you daily? Weekly? Yearly?
How about abortion?
We need to not get all twisted up in fear and insecurity and focus on what really matters to us.
To you.
What matters to you?
Whatever it is, see who is addressing that – not just for the cameras or the press conference or the interview, but their RECORD, their history. What do they stand for? Everyone says stupid stuff, says stuff out of anger or frustration, says things and then regret them later. Don’t go by that, go by what this person does on a daily basis. For example, John Edwards has been working, since 2004, on the issue of poverty. He expressed that this was a huge priority to him during his run for vice president. And what did he do – pursued it. That’s the record we should be looking. Not the photo ops. Not the 8 seconds of doctored snippets that make that person look fantastic or horrendous.

Anyway, came across this article on immigration.
Let’s chill a bit.

Is Illegal Immigration a Manufactured Crisis?
Analysis by Peter Costantini
SEATTLE, Washington, May 25 (IPS) - Driving Pres. George W. Bush's plan to send 6,000 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico and Congressional plans to build hundreds of miles of fences along it is a sense that the exodus of immigrants from Mexico has reached a critical level. A recent CBS News poll found that six in 10 respondents see illegal immigration as a very serious problem. In another poll by USA Today/Gallup, 81 percent agreed that illegal immigration is "out of control". But some analysts of immigration disagree. They see a crisis manufactured primarily for political ends. And they point to medium- to long-term trends that may reduce pressure to emigrate from Mexico.
In a recent opinion piece, Douglas Massey a sociologist at Princeton University, wrote; "The Mexican-American border is not now and never has been out of control...What has changed are the locations and visibility of border crossings." According to Massey, beefed-up enforcement has backfired. It has not deterred immigrants or reduced their inflow. But it has driven undocumented migrants away from the cities of San Diego, California, and El Paso, Texas, where the great majority of unauthorised immigrants entered before the 1990s. Both metropolitan areas have big Hispanic populations, making new arrivals less noticeable.
Now the concentration of undocumented entries has shifted east from San Diego to an area where a major U.S. highway enters Mexico. According to Massey, the border patrol has filmed immigrants running in groups across the highway and used the footage in a documentary portraying a border being overrun.
From El Paso, enforcement has pushed crossings out into the Sonora Desert in Arizona. Because this area is much more isolated and dangerous for migrants, the death rate during border crossings has tripled. From the 1980s to 2000, while the number of Border Patrol agents has more than quadrupled and its budget has increased eight-fold, the rate of apprehension of migrants while crossing has dropped from 33 percent to 10 percent.
Increased restrictions at the border, Massey said, had tripled the cost of crossing illegally. But ironically, making it harder and more dangerous to cross over has had the unintended effect of reducing return migration. So once undocumented immigrants get in to the U.S., they tend to stay longer and are less likely to travel back home. A study by Massey found that in the early 1980s, about half of undocumented Mexican immigrants returned to Mexico within 12 months. By 2000, the ratio had dropped to 25 percent.
David Card, a labour economist at the University of California at Berkeley, sees the perception of out-of-control immigration as partially fueled by a growth in nativist prejudice against immigrants, which he says rises and falls periodically in the U.S. "There is no crisis that has anything to do with immigration," he told IPS. But nativism, he said, has been enflamed by fear of terrorism and by wars in the Middle East.
For those on the right whose vision of the country harkens back to an idealised verison of the 1950s, welcoming an influx of mainly dark-skinned people who speak Spanish would require what he called a "cultural stretch". Anti-immigrant sentiment is not new in the U.S. -- it coalesced as early as the 1850s. In that decade, a movement called the Know-Nothings opposed a wave of Irish Catholic immigration. Subsequent groups of newcomers, including Chinese labourers in the late 19th century and southern Europeans in the first decades of the 20th century, often met with bias, repression and calls to send them back home. In those areas of the country that have experienced a sudden influx of immigrants in recent years, such as parts of North Carolina and Iowa, the growth of new communities with an unfamiliar culture and language have unsettled some residents. Local labour markets, especially for low-wage workers, and public services have been stressed by new job-seekers. Nationally, however, total immigration into the United States peaked in 2000 at the end of the Internet bubble, and declined by 24 percent by 2004, according to studies by the Washington-based Pew Hispanic Centre.
Immigration from Mexico, which accounts for about one-third of the total flow, followed a very similar pattern of rise and decline. During this period, however, the share of illegal immigration relative to legal increased. The total foreign-born population of 35.7 million in 2004 represented 12.2 percent of the U.S. population. Of the foreign-born, 10.4 million -- 29 percent of all immigrants -- were "unauthorised migrants". The unauthorised, though, constituted only 3.5 percent of the total population. The majority of unauthorised migrants, 57 percent, were from Mexico, and another 24 percent were from the rest of Latin America. Among recent Mexican immigrants to the U.S., 80 to 85 percent are estimated to have entered the country illegally.
Commonly articulated fears that immigrants take advantage of social benefits but don't pay taxes are challenged by a study of 6,000 migrants by the Mexican Migration Project, a joint effort of U.S. and Mexican universities. The study found that nearly two-thirds of migrants reported paying income tax and Social Security taxes. Yet few used any public service in the United States. Roughly 10 percent said they had ever sent a child to U.S. public schools and just five percent said they had ever received food stamps, welfare or unemployment compensation. This project found that most Mexican immigrants do not intend to settle permanently in the U.S. Eighty percent of those surveyed made three trips to the U.S. or fewer and 75 percent stayed less than two years. Of the minority who spent 10 or more years in the U.S., 63 percent bought homes in Mexico with the money they earned.
The net effect of immigration on the U.S. economy appears to be neutral or slightly positive, according to several studies. Consumers gain from lower prices in sectors such as agriculture, construction and services, where many immigrants work. Some studies have found a small downward pressure on the wages of the roughly 15 percent of U.S.-born workers who have not finished high school. But others dispute that effect and say that other factors play a much larger role in depressing the incomes of low-wage workers. As long as gross domestic product per person in the U.S. remains some four times as high as in Mexico (with a greater differential in hourly wages), legal and undocumented immigrants will be drawn to answer the siren song and cross over the 1,951-mile border in search of a better living.
Meanwhile, economic forces unleashed by the North American Free Trade Agreement have driven small Mexican farmers off their land and, in many cases, northward. But countervailing forces are at work in Mexico as well. According to the World Bank, Mexicans living in poverty declined from 24.2 percent to 17.6 percent from 2000 to 2004. As Mexican incomes rise, Mexican population growth and birth rates are declining.. At 1.3 percent, Mexico's population growth rate is now barely higher than Canada's, whereas in 1980 it was more than twice that of Canada. Mexico's fertility rate, the average number of children per women, has declined sharply from 7.3 in 1960 to 2.4 in 2000. Partly as a result of these trends, estimates of migration from Mexico by the United Nations, the U.S. and Mexico all show a peak around 2000 and a steep decline to anywhere from two-thirds to one-half of the peak by the end of the decade.
As Matthew Dowd, senior adviser to the Republican National Committee, wrote recently: "The aging of the population in Mexico coupled with Mexico's economic expansion mean that jobs in Mexico will be more plentiful, thereby prompting fewer young people to come to the United States in search of work."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Centrist Musings
My thought on this whole thing is pretty clear. I am not here to sway middle of the roaders. People who sit on the fence and speculate. I have no interest in people who cannot make up their minds about something so incredibly obvious. It’s only those that are removed from the situation that have the luxury of a long, leisurely paced stroll to opinion. I have to visualize standing in the middle of some Iraqi street with gunfire, bombs, screams, cries, chaos and thinking – well, I don’t really know if this situation, this war situation is something I am ready to form an opinion about. I can’t imagine how someone could watch another human being having gasoline injected into his penis and still feel the need for contemplation on the whole notion of torture. It boggles my mind. If you are for the war, if you think it is a good idea, fine. Say so. If you are against the war, if you think it’s a bad idea, then by-gum, say something. These hemmers and hawers are driving me insane! Hillary got booed because the huge majority of people who lean towards the left are not interested in making nice and slowly, cautiously come to some middle ground. This is a war and they want it over with. Period. You can talk about destabilization, you can talk about chaos, you can talk about anything you want, but as it stands now – Iraq is the poster child for instability, it is chaos and there are ways to get the heck out of there without making it worse. It’s just not easy to boil down to the nauseating prose of Sean Insanity with his cut and run nonsense. It means getting all the people who live in the surrounding areas to work towards stabilization. Think about it. If say…Oklahoma was in chaos and all crazy, don’t you think it would be best for those states surrounding Oklahoma to go in and say, let us help? Doesn’t that make more sense than say, Uzbekistan rolling in with tanks and artillery to bring about peace?
I have pledged to use clean energy. I am doing it.
I have pledged to see an Inconvenient Truth. I am going to see it.
I have pledged to use those energy efficient light bulbs. I’m doing it.
I have pledged to not vote for anyone who does not put getting out of Iraq in his/her top 5 priorities. I am so doing it.

It seems to me that when the neocons took over they made no effort whatsoever to bring the country together. It was all about dividing. When the dems/liberals come in, it’s all they talk about – mending a torn nation, blah blah blah. I say, no. An unbridled market is an out of control market. An unregulated corporation is a destructive corporation. An unmonitored, cloaked in secrecy government is no longer for and by the people.
Get with the program or step aside. We are working to make things better for EVERYONE, not just your people, friends and family, everyone. For all the people, the animals, the land, the air, the water. For all of them we can make this country and this world a lot better. We just need a regime change.

Slimy Musings
And now to rove. I have to say that I didn’t expect anything to stick to this personification of a slug. What a horrid little man he is! Although rove is out of the crosshairs, I do believe that cheney is still in the top three for indictment. That’s just my amateur opinion, but judging from all the buzz out there, well, let’s wait and see.

I went looking to try and figure out how all this works and I found this to be incredibly revealing.

Lee Edwards, a distinguished fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said other administrations have "flinched or blinked or said 'we've got to do more in response to this or that crisis.'"

"Rove and everyone else has been under enormous pressure and yet they have been able to stick to it and that's remarkable," said Edwards

Flinched. Blinked. Respond to crisis. Nope! Not here. Is this something to be proud of? That he went all this time lying about a conversation he had, and then he finally comes clean to the FBI and, that’s noble? Yeah. They’ve been under enormous pressure because they keep lying about everything and covering stuff up and trying to torpedo other people’s credibility. And this is something that a distinguished fellow at Heil Hitler Heritage Global Supremacy Foundation thinks is “remarkable”? Wow. Unbelievable. I guess it is all in one’s perspective.

Hannah Musings
Like the drama that unfolded today with Darryl Hannah and the largest urban farm located in South Central Los Angeles that – no! say it isn’t so! How…how can it be??!! A take over of land being used by 350 farmers to sustain themselves and their families for what?
A warehouse.
But of course! Because there simply aren’t enough warehouses, especially when one compares it to the number of inner city farming communities which, as we all know, are running rampant and it’s is HIGH time someone stopped that runaway train!
Personally, any movie that has had Darryl Hannah in it was one that made me wrinkle my nose and subtly but briskly shake my head in rejection. I don’t consider her to be a very good actress. But activist? Oh yeah! She is a rock star. She speaks out for all the things that are important to me. And anyone, ANYONE, that goes and climbs a walnut tree in the middle of LA and ties herself to the tree in protest goes straight to the ROCKSTAR section of this blog….which of course is under construction, i.e. nonexistent.
But that’s ok, because DH has taken a stand about local farming. Considering that this is the direction this country should be heading – moving towards local growers as opposed to growers from whom we must transport produce and product driving the price up because of the exorbitant cost of fuel – I say well done DH! She has so stepped up to the plate on this issue.
I did like her in Splash. And as she gets older, and takes more roles with content over kewpie, she gains credibility, acting wise.

Conflict Musings
And now to the recent statements out of Israel regarding the bomb that blew up the picnicking family. Now they say that Hamas (oooooooh, rilly?) planted that bomb to keep Israeli commandos off the strip.
Considering Israel has sent over 6000 missiles into the Gaza Strip as of late, this is a little questionable, especially considering their initial response of regret for the incident.
I am reluctant to give my point of view on this. It’s like touching an infected splinter. Pain all the way around no matter what you do.
I don’t think we get all the information in regards to Palestine and Israel. I had no idea that Israel was bombing the crap out of Gaza. I had heard about some incidents, but it isn’t until we saw that little girl running around looking for her family on the beach that this stuff gets revealed. And then it’s turned back around on Palestine? Huh? This is a country with no income, that has its police and civil servants protesting because of no pay? I think because the US supports Israel, we get a skewed version of Israel and Palestine. Israel is more powerful that Palestine, but if relations continue like this, the other Muslim nations are going to throw all their weight behind Palestine – because in their eyes it looks like a big bully is just smacking the crud out of a little guy, and no one likes that. Do they?

Git-mo’ Musings
After dozens of attempts, and suicides were finally achieved at Gitmo Bay, with Tony B. making cutting gestures across his neck in reference to the “enemy combatant and other made up names to bypass law” house of shame as well as the entire WORLD telling him to "shutterdown!", bush says – gosh, y’all, I’d like to but we have to wait on the court case. OMG. This guy. This crazy mixed up, head up his ass, guy. Stop. You are killing me! Ten. TEN out of the 500 have been charged with a crime.
The prisoner accounts are going to be bad, once lockdown is lifted, and all the lies about “secret prisons? Wha? What secret prisons?”, about rendition, about torture, about who’s freaking responsibility it all is , is going to come to the fore and it is not going to be pretty. Because this administration has a tendency to hunker down, refusing to come clean, wince or blink. It is going to be like pulling teeth. But the teeth will be pulled, and the abscess that is this administration will be expunged. We will get through all the foulness, filth and embarrassment at being so gullible for so long, but we will emerge stronger and wiser.

It will be a glorious new day.

Monday, June 12, 2006

It's a continuous battle - putting out fires that you thought were put out long ago. Not true in the case of whales.

In the next 10 days, Japan's long campaign to end the hunting moratorium could pay off. As offers of aid sway poorer nations to side with pro-whalers, conservationists fear the tide is turning. It is early morning in Tokyo, and the narrow streets of Tsukiji fish market are already packed with shoppers inspecting the overnight catch. At this time of day they are spoilt for choice: salmon, crab, shrimps, enormous sides of tuna and enough dried fish to last a lifetime. Tucked away among row upon row of exquisitely fresh seafood are the telltale red and white slivers of flesh, presented, rather unattractively, in tightly sealed polythene bags: whale meat.
Within the next 10 days the pro-whaling nations of Japan, Norway and Iceland are expected to win control of the International Whaling Commission meeting on the Caribbean island of St Kitts and begin wholesale changes to the regulatory body that could, in the near future, see Tsukiji's ageing stalls once again creak under an abundance of whale meat. The three whaling nations, which continue to hunt limited numbers of whales in the name of 'scientific research', believe they are closer than ever to securing 51 per cent of the votes among the IWC's 69 members.
To scrap the IWC's 1986 ban on commercial whaling they would need a three-quarters majority - both sides agree that that is unlikely to happen in St Kitts - but even a slim majority would mark the death knell of a ban that environmentalists hail as one of their greatest achievements.
Though they sense victory on St Kitts, pro-whalers in Japan attempted to play down the vote's significance. 'I don't think we can expect any major changes if Japan wins,' said Konomu Kubo of the Japan Whaling Association. 'Both camps have a similar number of countries on their side, so it really is too close to call at the moment. But I'm confident that the momentum is with the countries that want to get rid of the ban.'
In a last-ditch attempt to prevent that, anti-whaling nations have spent recent days lobbying smaller IWC nations to attend the 16-20 June meeting and make their voices heard. Leading the campaign is Australia, which has tried to stop Japanese whaling fleets from operating in the South Pacific and the Southern Ocean. The environment minister, Ian Campbell, recently led delegations to Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and Vanuatu to urge them to fend off any overtures from Japan. 'This year's IWC vote is crunch time for the survival of whales and every vote will be critical,' he said. 'Should the vote go the way of the whalers ... this will raise interest to levels I haven't seen since the 1970s. The outrage that will surge up around the world will force a lot of public attention on those key votes.' Days later, the Marshall Islands joined the IWC and indicated they would vote with Japan.
The future of the 20-year-old ban appears shakier than ever, despite its success in forcing pro-whaling nations to largely leave whales alone to recover after hundreds of years of hunting that took them to the brink of extinction. Between 1904 and 1986 about 2 million whales were killed in the southern hemisphere alone. By the early 1980s, unregulated whaling had reduced the number of humpback and grey whales by an estimated 98 per cent.
Whaling countries began scientific hunts the year after the ban went into effect, but catches continued to drop every year for a decade, reaching a low of 731 in 1994. The number of minke whales is estimated at several hundred thousand. Now the tide is turning again. A loophole in IWC regulations allows pro-whaling countries to hunt about 2,000 whales a year in the name of scientific research. When the 'research' is done, the meat is packed and sold in Japanese restaurants and supermarkets. Last year about 1,300 whales were killed during scientific hunts, and early this year whaling fleets returned with more than 2,100. Norway's cull of 1,052 minke whales in the North Atlantic this year was its highest since the ban went into effect. Japan, meanwhile, returned from the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary with 850 minke whales - twice the previous season's take - as well as 10 fin whales, a species listed as endangered. Only last week a Japanese fleet left for the northwest Pacific, where it hopes to catch 260 minke whales. But if Japan and its allies win a majority in St Kitts they will have the mandate they need to use the way the IWC operates to their advantage. Campaigners fear their first step would be to end the observer status of Greenpeace and other environmental groups. The pro-whalers would also be able to abolish the commission's conservation committee and introduce secret ballots, allowing smaller countries to vote with Japan without fear of upsetting aid donors such as the US. Last year Japan came tantalisingly close to achieving a majority, only to be let down by poorer member countries that either failed to turn up at the meeting in South Korea or were barred from voting because they had not paid their fees. Tokyo has gone to extraordinary lengths to prevent a repeat of the debacle. Last month the foreign ministry convened a secret meeting of pro-whaling countries to discuss tactics ahead of the IWC meeting. An official in the ministry's whaling division denied that aid packages had been discussed, but conceded that the parties had agreed on 'logistics' to ensure that poorer Pacific and African nations made the journey to St Kitts. Since 1998, Japan has persuaded 19 new countries to join the IWC, but it rebuts claims that it has done so by dangling generous aid packages in front of desperately poor countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Japan has increased aid to Belize, Mali and other countries that have recently joined the IWC but have yet to vote. Earlier this year it pledged more than $1m to the Pacific island of Tuvalu, a pro-whaling IWC member, and has reached similar deals with Nauru and Kiribati and other impoverished Pacific islands. But even if commercial whaling resumes, Japan's whale hunters cannot be sure there will be demand for their catch back home: their compatriots appear to have lost their appetite for the oily, chewy flesh.

'Consumption is decreasing and stock is increasing,' said Junichi Sato, campaign director of Greenpeace Japan. 'Coastal regions once had a tradition of limited local whaling, but we never used to send fleets of ships out to the Southern Ocean. It is pretty obvious that whaling is no longer a part of our culture.'
A 2002 survey conducted by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper found that only 4 per cent of respondents ate whale meat 'sometimes' and 9 per cent 'infrequently'. By contrast, 86 per cent said they had never eaten the meat or had stopped doing so in childhood. 'The only time one hears news of whale meat selling out is when it is given away for free in whale soup at some event,' Junko Sakuma, a former Greenpeace official turned freelance writer, said. 'Despite this, there are plans to substantially increase production. Really? Will the meat actually sell?'
Officials in Tokyo have started playing up whale meat's part in the traditional Japanese diet, hailing it as a healthy, low-fat alternative to meat. Last month the government set up a company that will market the meat to schools, hospitals and family restaurants in a bid to boost consumption and reduce stockpiles. Conservationists attribute whale meat's near disappearance from Japanese dinner tables to a combination of changing diet and sensitivity about eating an animal that leaves much of the rest of the world in awe. Such is the sensitivity surrounding whale cuisine that the Women's Forum for Fish, a Tokyo-based circle that promotes whale cuisine, refused to discuss its activities when approached by The Observer.
Faced with the embarrassing prospect of primary schoolchildren turning up their collective nose at what was once an important part of the traditional diet, Japanese whaling officials have turned to children for help. Last year, schoolchildren in Wakayama prefecture, the home of the Japanese whaling industry, were give deep-fried whale meat in their school lunches, and there are plans to extend the school meals programme to other areas. 'It will be difficult to increase consumption because young people aren't interested in eating whale meat,' said Nanami Kurasawa, director-general of the Dolphin and Whale Action network. 'Most Japanese don't like to talk about whaling, but they also believe the government line that whales are responsible for decimating fish stocks. But it is people, not whales, who are responsible for eating too much fish.' The whaling lobby counters that whale meat consumption has slumped as a direct result of the IWC ban. 'It means that the amount of meat on the market dropped, and the price went up,' said Kubo. 'People can no longer cook whale meat at home - that's why consumption is down. If it cost the same as other types of fish and meat, I am sure consumption would rise again. 'Because the meat available now comes from scientific hunts, it isn't freely available. Its sale is limited by all sorts of red tape, so the price just keeps going up.' This week's meeting is certain to be one of the most acrimonious since the IWC was formed in 1946. Whaling officials in Tokyo have repeated their threat to leave the body and set up a rival, pro-whaling organisation should it fail to win a majority. 'If things go on like this,' said Hideki Moronuki, head of the whaling section at the Fisheries Agency, 'there's definitely the danger that voices asking whether the IWC is needed will increase.'

Wonder Beneath the Waves

  • Sperm whales dive as deep as two miles below the sea surface and stay down for up to an hour and a half. Their brains can weigh up to 20 lbs, the largest of any creature, and they sleep upside down, with their heads pointing towards the bottom of the ocean.
  • Blue whales grow to more than 100 feet long, six times bigger than a brontosaurus. A blue whale has a heart the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. A newborn is around 20 feet long and drinks 50-150 gallons of milk a day, adding about 8 lbs to its body weight an hour.
  • Humpback whales sing 'love songs'. In the mating season, the males sing to the females. Those who sing longest are most successful.
  • It's difficult to tell the sex of a whale on sight. Its penis is called a dork, which has become a term of abuse in some parts of the world.
  • Killer whales have such a good sense of touch that if you dropped a pill into a bucket of fish and fed it to one, it could eat the fish and spit out the pill.
  • The 'strapped toothed' whale is named for the two teeth in its bottom jaw which 'strap' the upper jaw, preventing it from opening very much.
  • How these animals eat is not known, but one theory is that they stun their prey with high intensity sound.
  • Whales use layers of water in the sea to communicate with each other over long distances.
  • Fin whales talk to each other while 2,000 miles apart.
  • Most whales have five fingers in their flippers.
  • Whale products included animal feed, industrial oils, fertiliser, perfume, soap, shampoo and margarine.
  • George Washington's false teeth were made of whalebone.

Whaling fleets are equipped with sonar, helicopters and long-range explosive harpoons. The whale is killed by a 6 foot long iron harpoon shot from a cannon. The harpoon head contains a time-fuse grenade which blows the whale's insides apart seconds after impact, though this does not usually kill it immediately.
In the 1930-31 hunting season 30,000 blue whales were killed. By the Fifties the species had practically disappeared.


Testimony of TOM RIDER

"Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. I am Tom Rider, a former circus employee. I worked with Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus in 1997 as an elephant keeper and I loaded the children for the elephant ride. The elephant which we used, Pete or Petunia, was considered to be a dangerous animal and we were cautioned not to go near her. Despite this, she was used for rides before the show and during intermission carrying as many as ten children at a time on her back. She was surrounded by people waiting to ride. The only barrier between her and the public was a plastic net fence.

Typically during elephant rides, the handler walks in front of the elephant as she carries the riders on her back. If the elephant decides to wander off, it would take at least a few minutes for any handler to regain control. Since the elephant is surrounded by people, literally, there would be no way to prevent serious injuries if she decided to take off like the elephant in Florida. It never ceased to amaze me that the circus would tell people to put their children on an elephant’s back when they knew how dangerous the elephant was.

I left Beatty Cole because in White Plains New York, when Pete did not perform her act properly, she was taken to the tent, laid down and five trainers beat her with bullhooks. Pete is now dead.

After I left Beatty Cole, I went to work for Ringling Brothers Circus in Austin, Texas. I was hired as a barn man’s assistant and two months later, I became the afternoon barn man. In that capacity, I was present during the majority of the performances.

During my two and a half year’s employment with the circus, I was slammed between two elephants while I was working in the stock cars. Even though the elephants were chained, they are capable of doing incredible damage and most of the staff had similar incidents. It was very common to be stepped on, hit by the tail or injured in other ways just because of the sheer size and power of the elephant. My experiences have left me with a considerable respect for the damage that elephants can do even unintentionally.

We had an elephant named Karen who was labeled "killer" yet she was kept on the road performing because she was a good performing elephant. Although she was the most dangerous elephant in the group, she is the one they used in the three-ring adventure where the public is allowed to stand around the elephant with no safety net or other protection around her. Karen had a habit of knocking anyone who came into range, slamming them into the ground, yet they allowed her to have contact with the audience.

While I worked for Ringling Brothers, I heard stories all the time about dangerous elephants and how they could kill you if you got too close. One of the top trainers for the circus had been killed by one of his elephants and a lot of the handlers were hit while they were working around them. I was injured in the eye when an elephant slammed me with her tail and I have been slammed a few times while working around them.

After my three years working with elephants in the circus, I can tell you that they live in confinement and they are beaten all the time when they don’t perform properly. That makes them dangerous and they want to get away.

My first experience with an elephant running was in Tupelo, Mississippi when we were on the elephant walk returning to the train and a cattle truck stopped to let us pass. Karen, who was in the front, was startled by the cattle and she, Minnie and Mysore took off running straight down the road. Luckily, it was at night and there were some police cars in their path which stopped them and the trainer was able to catch them. If this had occurred during the day, with a lot of public around, it would have caused a lot of injury to innocent people.

Another time, in Ottawa, Canada, in the afternoon, I was alone and the elephants were contained behind their electric fence. I was approximately 75 yards away cleaning when I heard an elephant scream. When I turned around, I saw three elephants fighting and two others were heading for the horse tent, having broken through the fence. Since I was alone, I was unable to control the situation. It took about five minutes before I could get help and another five minutes before we could begin to regain control. During this time, if the elephants had run in a different direction and had not moved toward the horses, they would have been right in the middle of the public.

My experiences with the circus has convinced me that, because of the way they live and are trained, elephants are extremely dangerous and should not be around the public. I also know first hand that the circus keeps the danger and the public exposure well hidden and we were cautioned never to let the public know if anything goes wrong. We could have lost our jobs if we had ever reported to the USDA or others any incidents that put the public at risk.

When I became disturbed about the treatment of the elephants, the continual beatings, including the baby Benjamin, I was told "that’s discipline". On another occasion, I was confronted by my supervisor that I was overheard on the train saying I was going to report the beatings of the baby Benjamin to the USDA. It was common knowledge that I was the one who complained about the treatment of the elephants.

Whenever the USDA inspected the circus, the circus always knew in advance that they were coming. We were always told to clean up, don’t hit the elephants when they come around. I know for a fact that any attempt by the USDA to regulate the circus or to enforce laws is a joke. I was present at many inspections where the inspectors never saw the marks on the elephants from the bull hooks and the beatings. Obviously, they would not be able to regulate a situation that they see only two or three times a year.

In closing, I would like to quote from the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Animal Care Manual:

"Remember that exotic animals can be trained, but not tamed, and they can be dangerous to people and to each other."
Thank you for your time."

Join me in protesting the 14 performance of ringling in Houston in July. Contact me at
Thank you!!

This is no joke. Click on this link and do everything you can to get behind this movement.
This is the deal. Right now, the internet is a completely open book - you can go to any site any web page. But the congress is moving to change that. It has already passed the house. They want to give control of the internet, access to the hundreds of billions of pages out there, to companies like verizon, comcast, telephone companies who will grant access based on fees. So, while Joe Blow is sitting at his computer being barred from one site after another, while Nelly Netter is trying to get hits on her site but isn't even being picked up by search engines, while Polly Public sits waiting for her pages to load, the CORPORATIONS will once again be raking in the dough.
Is this getting old to you? We seem to be so docile when it comes to the price of gas, the reduction of quantity with no reduction in price, the mucking up of our water and air and land, the poisoning of our animals and children, and the endless onslaught of graft and corruption. But an escape, or maybe even a feeling of power has always come in the arena of the internet. We have control.
All the store closed but feel like shopping? Tada! Shop away!
Need a specialty item and don't want to waste precious gallons of gas in search of? Woohoo! Let your fingers do the walking!
Want to get information that is not being released by other media outlets? There you go!
The internet is the absolute icon of freedom in this country. Remember all that hulabaloo about China mandating to Google that if they were going to be in their country they would play by their rules, and in turn, allow them to censor information and track activity? This is the exact same thing, except it's the government handing over the power to, gosh and golly - shock and horror, the big corporations.
Why is this happening?
As much as this administration and its counterparts screech about freedom, they only like it if it benefits them. Freedom to screw as many people over as possible. They don't, however, like all these muckrakers, all these goshdarned bloggers having their say with no filter. This adminstration and those that were ushered in with it have tried to clamp down on what comes to light and what does not. Having a network of leakers, an underground of truth seekers, eating away at the intricate cloak of secrecy that has been thrown over DC, is really, really aggravating. Every time something else comes out, you can see cheney's face get that much more pinched. You can literally see blood vessels bursting.
The bloggers have been the underground railroad of this era. I don't speak for myself, I'm talking about the people who have the access - KOS, the Huffington Post, Velvet Revolution, etc. - that have continuously brought up points that the regular media refuses to even deal with. Think about Robert Kennedy Jr.'s piece in Rolling Stone about how the 2004 election was stolen. Was there any followup by the corporate media? None. Is this not news? Isn't it at the very least a story worth investigating in order to disprove?
No. The mentality is, as most people who have had a serious issue know, - like the people who have lost loved ones on cruiseliners or minority kids that have disappeared - the attitude is "ignore it and it will go away." If I don't look at something, it doesn't exist.
My boys did this when they were very little. They would cover their eyes and say "try to find me!". They were gone. They were hidden. I could still see them. But they couldn't see me, so they were gone.
I expect at any moment for this adminstration's key figures to suddenly cover their eyes.
We cannot lose this freedom. It has been a wonderful thing to look for anything, anyone, to wonder about a country and actually go there, virtually, and see what it's like. It has been amazing watching my site counter go up, knowing that there are people who have access, unlimited access, to read and watch and buy what they want. How awesome is that?
Sure we need to do something about the creeps. But we need to do something about the creeps everywhere. Awareness helps that. Information and the sharing of knowledge is our best ally on that front.
But handing over the web to the phone companies?
Sign the petition.
Do everything you can.
This is really important.