Thursday, June 30, 2005

Bond Supports Testing Pesticides on Children

Yesterday, the Senate passed an amendment (proposed by Sen. Boxer, D-CA) by a wide margin (60-37) prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency from testing pesticides on humans. One Missouri senator voted for the amendment. The other voted against it.

The EPA has been promising families some cash in order to carry out experiments, often on kids and often in low-income neighborhoods. Take this one example:

The tests include a 2002-04 study by University of California-San Diego in which chloropicrin, an insecticide that during World War I was a chemical warfare agent, was administered to 127 young adults in doses that exceeded federal safety limits by 12 times.

In 1998, Bill Clinton imposed a moratorium on using human testing for pesticide approvals. The Bush administration lifted that moratorium, allowing political appointees to referee on a case-by-case basis any ethical disputes over human testing.

Boxer's amendment would block the EPA from using data taken from human testing and bar the agency from conducting such testing. Thirty-seven senators, all Republicans, voted against the proposal. Sen. Kit Bond is among that number. Sen. Jim Talent, on the other hand, voted for the amendment.

(The House passed an amendment with the exact same wording by a voice vote on May 19th. So there's no record as to how any of Missouri's representatives voted.)

Why does Sen. Bond want pesticides to be tested on children?

Has the DoD Adopted Enron Accounting Practices?

Lukery points out some interesting "cooking the books" figuring on the part of the Dept. of Defense regarding June recruiting numbers.

If you recall, the DoD has fallen short of its recruiting goals for several months. But now they say they've exceeded their June goal by 500. How'd they do that?

ok - so as always its a bit difficult to work through the spin - but does anyone actually believe this nonsense?

unless june is typically 30% worse than May for some seasonal reasons, then they are simply lying through their teeth again. we know from last month that the May target was 8050, and now we are expected to believe that the june target was always 5650? is there a journo on the planet with access to the internet and an abacus?

in fact, when they reduced the May target, they maintained the full year target and were just "re-allocating" the 1350 across the remaining months - June, July, August and Spetember - some of which were presumably stuffed into the June recruiting budget.

similarly, i'd have to think that if they really got 10% more than their budget they'd be shouting from the rooftops that they had turned the corner and that all is well in BushWorld and that we are winning the war and all that. the relative silence is deafening.

the latest reports say that recruiting is "7,800 recruits behind schedule to send 80,000 enlistees to boot camp with only three months to go in the recruiting year". last month we were told they were 8,300 behind schedule. if the 7800 number is correct, then i'm wrong in suggesting that they are diddling the figures again. more likely, it would seem to me, is that lazy journalists simply took the 8300 number and then took Myers' at face value when he said that they beat the June target by 500, and they assumed that means that they are now only 7800 behind. if we assume that the original June target was similar to the original May target, then recruiting is actually 10,200 behind schedule


update: from usatoday
" The June 2005 goal was more than 1,000 recruits lower than the June 2004 goal." this proves my point that there has been some number-diddling. the annual goal this year is a few percent higher than last year, yet we are expected to believe that the june target was somehow, magically, 20% lower than last year. unadulterated nonsense.

Lukery has bet that someone in the DoD is lying. Anyone want to take that bet?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Did You Get a Pay Raise This Year?

Congress gets one. Although Tom DeLay doesn't want you to call it that.

From the Associated Press:

The House on Tuesday agreed to a $3,100 pay raise for Congress next year — to $165,200 — after defeating an effort to roll it back.

In a 263-152 vote, the House blocked a bid by Rep. Jim Matheson (news, bio, voting record), D-Utah, to force an up-or-down vote on the pay raise. Instead, lawmakers will automatically receive the raise — officially a cost of living adjustment — as provided for in a 1989 law that barred them from pocketing big speaking fees in exchange for an annual COLA.


Republican leaders — who succumbed to pressure to block the COLA for three of the first four years their party controlled Congress — now are strong advocates of it. The last time it was rejected was in 1998.

"It's not a pay raise," said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas. "It's an adjustment so that they're not losing their purchasing power."

So do you get an adjustment to keep you from losing your purchasing power? Remember DeLay's words should you find yourself in the unemployment line.

GOP Pushing for Vote on Private Accounts

The Turner Report first alerted us to Congressman Roy Blunt's pledge to bring the President's social security plan (if only the President would actually define his plan) to a vote in July or September. The Associated Press has more via

The measure "begins to take that Social Security trust fund and put it into an account that will be there" for wage earners, Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said at a news conference Wednesday.

Democrats swiftly attacked the plan. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Republicans were setting up a "shell game" out of a desire to undermine the Depression-era benefit program.


The announcement by Hastert and other GOP leaders marked a turning point in the politically charged struggle over Social Security, the first time senior Republicans in either house of Congress have pledged to put legislation to a vote.

Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the GOP whip, said that would come either in July or September.


GOP leaders said the measure would be incorporated into a broader bill making changes in pensions and other areas relating to retirement.

Mindful of the political sensitivity of the issue, Republicans began closed-door meetings at which members of the rank and file were advised how to describe the program to their constituents over the coming weeklong congressional break.


Blunt said that under the legislation "every Social Security dollar gets spent to assure retirement benefits."

At the same time, Republican officials conceded that at least for the first three years the program is in operation, the government would continue to borrow the surplus funds and spend them as needed. The difference would be that the debt was owed to individuals rather than the Social Security trust fund as a whole.

Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La., one of the authors of the bill, said it would raise the government's official deficit forecast by between $774 billion and $1 trillion over the next decade.

Note that the GOP held closed-door meetings to explain "how to describe the program" so that they can attempt to bamboozle you into believing the program is something it is not. The goal is to gut Social Security, something the GOP has been trying to do ever since FDR introduced the program.

Note, also, that the legislation will be "incorporated into a broader bill making changes in pensions and other areas relating to retirement." Why? To try to make the plan that would gut Social Security appear to be better for your retirement.

And finally, note that the President's plan will increase the national debt. The GOP wants you to believe it will only be $1 trillion over the next decade. Others have estimated it much higher.

Go to or The Truth About Social Security for a detailed explaination of the real social security facts.

New Democratic Party Web Site

The party has re-launched its web site with a new look. Evidently Howard Dean has been personally calling some bloggers to tell them, among other things, about the new site. Lost Chord wasn't included. DavidNYC at DailyKos is conducting a poll about the renamed blog.

FCC Commissioner Needs Your Help

BuzzFlash has an interview with pro-consumer Federal Communications Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein in which he asks for our help in preventing the Karl Rove effort to control the media.

I think activists play a really critical role in helping to mobilize communities that are concerned about this. It turns out that a vast public is worried about this, and it takes a handful of advocate leaders to make sure to channel that energy and let them know how to get involved, and how to impact the FCC and Congress. That’s a critical role for them to take.

After all, the law requires that we do what’s in the "public interest." That’s what Congress asked. If we don’t have input from the public, it’s kind of arrogant to say that we somehow know better than the public what’s good for them. We need to involve the public and involve Congress -- listen to what the public thinks is best for them. And it really takes the help from an organized and savvy group like those Americans who were represented out in St. Louis to make sure that all of the different viewpoints are well represented.

You need to contact the FCC and let them know who you think should control the media.

Condolences to Ron Davis

Ron writes the blog Chatter. His father died on Monday, and Ron announced it in a touching post. Spare kind thoughts for Ron and his family. They're good people.

Lightning Does Too Strike Twice

In an ironic twist, the National Weather Service office serving Des Moines, Iowa, has been struck by lightning a second time in two years.

From KCCI-TV (a former employer):

A NWS employee took an indirect lightning hit at about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Jeff Johnson was working inside the building doing severe weather operations when the strike occurred. Right after the lightning hit, Johnson told coworkers that he felt odd and something was wrong and he felt a tingling feeling, NewsChannel 8 reported.

Johnson's family arrived and took him to the hospital as a precaution.

The strike also caused problems at the NWS. Several of the bureau's computers went down and crews are working to restore them.

The strike was part of a fast-moving storm that did not produce much lightning.

The Johnston fire chief talked about the irony of the situation.

"It's like the fire station that catches fire. It always brings up the antennas when you hear something like that," said Jim Krohse, Johnston's fire chief. "Unfortunately, every building in the world is susceptible to it."

This is the second time the NWS has been struck. The other strike happened last year.

And you thought you had it bad.

The New Chickenhawks

It's too bad that those who most support the war aren't willing to put on the uniform and actually go into battle.

Max Blumenthal reports from the College Republicans National Convention:

In interviews, more than a dozen conventiongoers explained why it is important that they stay on campus while other, less fortunate people their age wage a bloody war in Iraq. They strongly support the war, they told me, but they also want to enjoy college life and pursue interesting careers. Being a College Republican allows them to do both. It is warfare by other, much safer means.

After the day's speeches, I was whisked down a hotel hallway by a guy in a baseball jersey with "Davidson" emblazoned on the back who promised me free food and drinks. Soon I was in a bright banquet hall with dozens of young Republicans. Open bars were set up in two corners of the room; in the center of the room was a catered, Mexican-style grill; on the walls, 1980s kitsch videos played on plasma TVs; in the air, the sound of suburban country music. It was all paid for by Mike Davidson, the former head of the University of California, Berkeley College Republicans and the insurgent candidate in the race for CRNC chairman. Let's get the party started.

I chatted for a while with Collin Kelley, a senior at Washington State with a vague resemblance to the studly actor Orlando Bloom. Kelley told me he's "sick and tired of people saying our troops are dying in vain" and added, "This isn't an invasion of Iraq, it's a liberation--as David Horowitz said." When I asked him why he was staying on campus rather than fighting the good fight, he rubbed his shoulder and described a nagging football injury from high school. Plus, his parents didn't want him to go. "They're old hippies," Kelley said.

Munching on a chicken quesadilla at a table nearby was Edward Hauser, a senior at St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas--a liberal school in a liberal town in the ultimate red state of Texas. "Austin is ninety square miles insulated from reality," Hauser said. When I broached the issue of Iraq, he replied, "I support our country. I support our troops." So why isn't he there?

"I know that I'm going to be better staying here and working to convince people why we're there [in Iraq]," Hauser explained, pausing in thought. "I'm a fighter, but with words."

At a table by the buffet was Justin Palmer, vice chairman of the Georgia Association of College Republicans, America's largest chapter of College Republicans. In 1984 the group gained prominence in conservative circles when its chairman, Ralph Reed, formed a political action committee credited with helping to re-elect Senator Jesse Helms. Palmer's future as a right-wing operative looked bright; he batted away my question about his decision to avoid fighting the war he supported with the closest thing I heard to a talking point all afternoon. "The country is like a body," Palmer explained, "and each part of the body has a different function. Certain people do certain things better than others." He said his "function" was planning a "Support Our Troops" day on campus this year in which students honored military recruiters from all four branches of the service.

Standing by Palmer's side and sipping a glass of rose wine, University of Georgia Republican member Kiera Ranke said she played her part as well. She and her sorority sisters sent care packages to troops in Iraq along with letters and pictures of themselves. "They wrote back and told us we boosted their morale," she said.

By the time I encountered Cory Bray, a towering senior from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, the beer was flowing freely. "The people opposed to the war aren't putting their asses on the line," Bray boomed from beside the bar. Then why isn't he putting his ass on the line? "I'm not putting my ass on the line because I had the opportunity to go to the number-one business school in the country," he declared, his voice rising in defensive anger, "and I wasn't going to pass that up."

The new crop of chickenhawks. Bless their hearts.

Bush and Company Continue to Lie

In his speech Tuesday night, Bush mentioned September 11th five times. He also mentioned Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden. Bush is still trying to bamboozle people into believing Saddam and Iraq were connected to September 11. And he's not the only one.

Rep. Robin Hayes, the vice chair of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism tells CNN he has seen the evidence linking Saddam with September 11, then tries to change the subject. From Will Bunch:

CONG. HAYES: I don't think it's changed at all. It's very clear that terrorists are connected to what Saddam Hussein was all about. And that again faces up to the most severe threat going forward...

CNN'S COSTELLO: But there is no...

HAYES: We have to do a good job explaining...

COSTELLO: ... evidence that Saddam Hussein was connected in any way to al Qaeda.

HAYES: Ma'am, I'm sorry, but you're mistaken. There's evidence everywhere. We get access to it, unfortunately others don't. But the evidence is very clear.

COSTELLO: What evidence is there?

HAYES: The connection between individuals who were connected to Saddam Hussein, folks who worked for him, we've seen it time and time again. But the issue is where are we now. Nobody disputes 9/11. They would do that again if not prevented. Preventing 9/11 wherever it might happen in America, winning the war overseas, not bringing it here to our shores, is the issue in that regard.

COSTELLO: Well, are you saying that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11?

HAYES: I'm saying that Saddam Hussein -- and I think you're losing track of what we're trying to talk about here -- Saddam Hussein and people like him were very much involved in 9/11. Did he make the phone call and say...

Enough, already! A June 25th New York Times editorial rightly states:
To have the sober conversation about the war in Iraq that America badly needs, it is vital to acknowledge three facts:

The war has nothing to do with Sept. 11....

The war has not made the world, or this nation, safer from terrorism....

If the war is going according to plan, someone needs to rethink the plan....

Until the Bush administration is willing to rejoin the reality-based community, Iraq will remain a quagmire, young men and women will continue to die, and American will continue to become weaker.

Cheney Wants An Apology...

...for the military and our vets from those of us who have the audacity to criticize the brutal abuse of international and U.S. law taking place at Gitmo.
Americablog offers one.

- I'm sorry Bush told us there were WMD when there weren't.
- I'm sorry Bush told us Saddam had ties to Al Qaeda, and didn't.
- I'm sorry Cheney told us that Saddam's agents had met with Mohammad Atta in Prague, when he didn't.
- I'm sorry Colin Powell became so spineless that he threw his principles out the window and lied before the entire UN.
- I'm sorry over 1700 US servicemembers are dead in a war that was based on a lie.
- I'm sorry our soldiers are being told their own parents have to pay for their body armor, because the US military won't.
- I'm sorry the Bush administration lied about what really happened to Pat Tillman, and then lied to his parents.
- I'm sorry Bush demanded Saddam comply with UN inspections, then when Saddam did comply, Bush invaded anyway.
- I'm sorry Bush told us Mission Accomplished nearly 2 years ago, and the bloodshed continues.
- I'm sorry Bush told us the few incidents at Abu Ghraib were only isolated incidents, when they weren't.
- I'm sorry Bush told us 7 months before the Iraq war that he hadn't yet decided to invade, when he had.
- I'm sorry Bush keeps telling us the over 500 prisoners at Gitmo are such bad terrorists that they simply can never be released, but then Bush can't even come up with enough evidence to charge even one of them with jaywalking.

Our men and women in uniform deserve better. Our country can do better than George W. Bush.

What I Believe, Part I

I haven't had much to say lately. Actually, I've had a lot to say, but didn't feel like saying it. Been busy with projects, which made blogging time scarce. And the world seemed to be going mad.

I don't care about the Michael Jackson verdict.

I don't care about another missing white woman.

I don't care about a libelous biography of Hilary Clinton full of errors and innuendo.

I don't care about Tom Cruise going wacky.

The mainstream media have every right to cover these stories, and other people may truly care about them. Nothing wrong with that. I'm sure there are plenty of tidbits I find interesting that others do not.

So I've been kind of quiet on the blog front. But this week is different.

"Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," Rove said. "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war.... Conservatives saw what happened to us on 9/11 and said we will defeat our enemies. Liberals saw what happened to us and said we must understand our enemies.... No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals," Rove said.

Rove then topped himself:
"Has there ever been a more revealing moment this year?" Mr. Rove asked. "Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."

Just to be clear, my motives in protesting the debacle that is Iraq having nothing to do with being touchy-feely with terrorists. Nor do they have anything to do with disrespecting those who died on September 11th. Nor do they have anything to do with being ashamed of those who wear the uniform in service to our country. Rather, my motives are about keeping those in uniform safe from harm by getting them out of a place we invaded based on a lie by their commander in chief.

Although it received quite a bit less play in the MSM and the blogosphere, Dick Cheney has also been attacking those who disagree with dear leader:

Since 9/11, we've had people like Chuck Hagel and other politicians and we've had people in the press corps and commentators who've said we can't do Afghanistan.

This is particularly sickening because Cheney has never worn a military uniform. In fact, he received five deferments from service in Vietnam. Hagel, on the other hand,
served in Vietnam with his brother Tom in 1968. They served side by side as infantry squad leaders with the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Division. Hagel earned many military decorations and honors, including two Purple Hearts.

Remember also, President Bush just killed 1700 Americans in Iraq for a lie, and still hasn't bothered to attend a single funeral of one of the soldiers he killed.

As Atrios states, The new strategy is criticism of iraq=criticism of afghanistan=support for taliban=support for al qaeda = cheering on crashing twin towers.

I'm tired of being called unpatriotic, or accused of giving aid and comfort to the enemy (treasonous), or too soft on terrorists.

I believe everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. I believe everyone should be held accountable for their actions. I believe al qaeda is wrong in their beliefs about the U.S. I believe many in the U.S. are wrong in their beliefs about al qaeda. I believe everyone should be willing to listen to and consider opposing points of view. I believe not to do so is simply being intellectually lazy and simple-minded. I believe Americans can do better.

I believe my country is better than a school yard bully. I believe my country should not resort to torture for any reason. I believe my country is compassionate. I believe my country should defend the weak, care for the sick, uplift the downtrodden. I believe my country is great, but will improve. I believe my country can do better.

I believe our troops deserve to be fully equipped and prepared before going to war. I believe parents of those in the military should not have to buy the needed equipment.

I believe my country is better than the neocon way. I believe my country can do better than George Bush and Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.

And I believe it's time to stop this madness and hold that trio responsible for the heinous acts they've committed.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Friday Beagle Blogging for Kreider

checknotes, originally uploaded by DocLarry.

Dear Jim Kreider,

Ron Davis says you are the best hope for Democrats in southwest Missouri. And I agree.

We need a congressman in Washington, D.C., who will understand and be concerned about the people in southwest Missouri. You are that man.

You spent your time in Jefferson City representing the values of all people. We need someone to get this country back on track, not serving as the "hand maid" of Tom DeLay and dividing the country.

Although I can't vote, my owners can and will vote for you. We urge you to run for U.S. Congress.


Baxter O'Beagle

Saturday, June 11, 2005

On Rude Students

Angry Professor blogs on the rudeness of some students in her statistics course. I'm certain her experience is not unusual, partly from my own classroom experiences, but also based on comments to her post and what I've read on other academic blogs. She follows up on one of the comments questioning her motives for offering a "gimme" quiz to the students who show up for class.

If you don't go to my lectures and choose to learn it on your own, that's fine by me. You're paying for my expertise and my assistance in learning the material, but if you'd rather struggle through it without my insights then go for it. But then don't come to me later and ask me to regurgitate my lectures for you because you realized too late that you needed my help. There are other students who do come to my lectures who need my help during office hours and they will get my first priority. Perhaps someday you will teach a course and then you will understand the frustration I and every other instructor feels when someone asks, "Did I miss anything?"

I don't know if this is the way it's always been (seriously doubtful) or if this phenomenon is the result of a shift toward treating students as customers who must be served (strongly suspect). I am certain, however, that it is annoying as hell to respectful students and to faculty.

I am left nearly speechless by the students who will, in all seriousness, contact me before class wondering "will we do anything important today?" Gee, I don't know, probably not. Do we ever do anything important? These same students will invariably complain about the less-than-A grade they receive on an assignment or exam (or the course) and insist that they didn't know I would test on things not in the book, or that the notes they borrowed didn't include this material or these instructions or whatever.

So I understand perfectly well why Angry Professor is angry. And I'll admit to skipping classes myself throughout my academic career. And I understand that circumstances arise which prevent one from attending a particular day.

I have no problem with missing a class once in a while. I have no problem with needing to leave early once in a blue moon.

I do have a problem with asking me ahead of time whether it's worth coming to class or not. I do have a problem with being noisy and disruptive while packing up to leave early.

And I do have a problem with not accepting the consequences of one's actions.

Why do some students find this so difficult to comprehend?

Friday, June 10, 2005

Democracy in Action

Republicans are big on talking about democracy, especially when it involves invading and occupying another country in order to "spread democracy." You'd think they'd be able to practice it in the U. S. House.

Friday, however, the GOP chairman of the House Judiciary Committee demonstrated that Republicans aren't interested in democracy unless they can control it. The committee was holding a hearing on the Patriot Act. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., chairman of the panel, decided that he didn't like what he was hearing and declared the hearing completed, over the protests of Democratic members of the committee. has a couple video clips, but their server is a bit slow due to extensive traffic.

The Associated Press has the story:

"We are not besmirching the honor of the United States, we are trying to uphold it," he said.

Democrats asked for the hearing, the 11th the committee has held on the act since April, saying past hearings had been too slanted toward witnesses who supported the law. The four witnesses were from groups, including Amnesty International USA and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, that have questioned the constitutionality of some aspects of the act, which allows law enforcement greater authority to investigate suspected terrorists.

Nadler said Sensenbrenner, one of the authors of the Patriot Act, was "rather rude, cutting everybody off in mid-sentence with an attitude of total hostility."

Tempers flared when Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., accused Amnesty International of endangering the lives of Americans in uniform by referring to the prison at Guantanamo Bay as a "gulag." Sensenbrenner didn't allow the Amnesty representative, Chip Pitts, to respond until Nadler raised a "point of decency."

Sensenbrenner's spokesman, Jeff Lungren, said the hearing had lasted two hours and "the chairman was very accommodating, giving members extra time."

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, speaking immediately after Sensenbrenner left, voiced dismay over the proceedings. "I'm troubled about what kind of lesson this gives" to the rest of the world, he told the Democrats remaining in the room.

Yes, what kind of lesson does this give to the rest of the world?

AmericaBlog has an interesting idea for House Dems...where gags for the next House session.

Congress Aims at Big Bird

The right has gone after SpongeBob and Buster. Now they're aiming at Big Bird, Elmo, and Julia Child.

Details and a call to action from Democracy Cell Project:

Yesterday, a house subcommittee carefully took aim at Big Bird, pulled the trigger and shot America's favorite pre-school teacher.

The goal is to kill all funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting within two years.

Visit Democracy Cell Project to learn how to contact the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Jerry Lewis, and tell him how you feel about this. Do it now.

Friday Beagle Blogging

baxter, originally uploaded by DocLarry.

Far too many bloggers do a Friday Cat Blog. I like cats and cute kittens, but I share living quarters with a beagle. Meet Baxter.

Can the Draft Be Far Behind?

Several months ago I speculated on exactly when the military draft would begin. After reading a horror story from Washington, as well as the reports of various military units falling far short of recruiting goals, I'm speculating again.

I'm appalled at the story reported by Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Susan Paynter, especially since my tax dollars are being used to conduct such scams. The armed forces aren't asking anymore, they're coaxing, cajoling, and manipulating kids into joining.

For mom Marcia Cobb and her teenage son Axel, the white letters USMC on their caller ID soon spelled, "Don't answer the phone!"

Marine recruiters began a relentless barrage of calls to Axel as soon as the mellow, compliant Sedro-Woolley High School grad had cut his 17th birthday cake. And soon it was nearly impossible to get the seekers of a few good men off the line.

With early and late calls ringing in their ears, Marcia tried using call blocking. And that's when she learned her first hard lesson. You can't block calls from the government, her server said...

Anybody else think the draft can't be far behind?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Life Can Be Interesting

So weeding out the email accumulated while on vacation sans computer, I find a request for a phone conversation from a friend down south. No details, just a request for a phone call to discuss something. Piqued my curiosity.

So I send out a quick email explaining my absence during the past week and thus my failure to respond sooner, and include a promise to call the next day. (As you may have deduced, I'm keeping late hours)

Return email today informs me friend is now out of town, but will call me so the call's on his dime, not mine. OK. Still no word on what this might be about. I wait. No call during the day as indicated. Still curious.

Got the phone call tonight. A professional organization to which we both belong is having a conference in south Texas in August and it is "important" that I attend, he says. Well, says I, why might it be important? I hadn't planned to go, given the location and time of year, and the fact I'd have no institutional support to do so. Friend is aware of this, but really hopes I can attend anyway. It's important that I be there on one particular day. Could I maybe at least make it for that?

Why, I ask again? Friend doesn't want to tell me much, but says he will give me a little bit of information, if that's what it will take to convince I need to go.

Now I've been pretty active in this organization for much of my professional career, and even served as an officer for seven years. But I'd purposely stepped away from it this past year due to certain circumstances (of which Friend is fully aware). I'd made no committments to the group, had done my part by evaluating research papers submitted for possible presentation at the conference, and purposely kept a low profile this past year because I knew I would not have time to devote to the group.

Besides, I just returned from my vacation this year and didn't really want to take away more time to attend the conference in southern Texas in August.

Friend tells me I'm being "honored" at the conference. Honored? Why? He'd rather not say. He wasn't supposed to even tell me that much, just get me there. OK. Now I'm REALLY curious. But I also know Friend has been placed in an awkward position. (And I must confess, I've always wanted someone to throw me a surprise party. Finally had to throw myself one, but that's another story.)

OK, says I, I'll see if I can go. I make no promises, but I'll do my best. I did finally promise to give him a definite answer before August.

My wife (my biggest fan) says we should find a way to go. I've jokingly referred to her as "She who must be obeyed" (a line stolen from Rumpole of the Bailey). So we will likely be heading south in August so that I might be "honored" by the organization.

And I will confess. Given the recent doings career-wise, I'm feeling pretty good about the whole thing. Perhaps I'm not as, um, "bad" as certain individuals have portrayed me.

Impeach Bush

Didn't Congress impeach Clinton for lying about having oral sex with a consenting adult? Why then should Bush not be impeached for having lied about the justification for the war in Iraq?.

David Michael Green makes this argument in an excellent article at Common Dreams, while also detailing the implications of the Downing Street Memo, while chastising the mainstream media for avoiding the "smoking gun":

My, how far we've traveled. In this week full of Watergate reminiscences, the irony of our present condition could not be more complete. Three decades ago, two cub reporters with the backing of a great patriotic paper struggled to uncover, bit by painstaking bit, information which saved the republic from a highjacking. Today, the story is out there in plain sight, and yet the no-longer-remotely-great journalistic organs not only fail to present it, they conspire to cover it up, adding their own special contribution to the current unraveling of constitutional government. Increasing numbers of Americans are coming to realize that learning the truth about their country requires going to foreign sources like the BBC, or to alternative electronic media. Fortunately, however, American journalism still exhibits a pulse in a few parts of the country. Most significant so far has been a stunning cri de coeur out of Minneapolis, deep within America's heartland and hardly a Havana, Falluja or even Berkeley. In a devastating Memorial ('Memo'rial?) Day editorial, the Star Tribune called the president what he is, a liar who has committed the gravest sin any commander-in-chief ever could, "spending [American soldiers'] blood in an unnecessary war based on contrived concerns about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction".

Wow. One can only imagine the shivers running down the spines of Rove, Bush, Cheney and the rest as they read those words and consider the (very mainstream) source. Already unpopular and no longer trusted, the Memo has the capacity to devastate if not destroy this White House, and potentially even to sentence its occupants to financial ruin and long prison terms. (If this were to get any sweeter, more deserved, or more ironic, those jail cells would turn out to be in The Hague, rather than Leavenworth. Nobody pinch me yet, please, this is too good.)

Indeed, the ironies which may ensue from this point forward are exquisite to contemplate. Those who have recklessly dismantled American democracy over the last two decades in a naked pursuit of power may well in turn become victims of several of the destructive precedents they themselves have established.

For starters, consider Karl Rove's dilemma right now. He is in precisely the position he has long loved to place his opponents (such as Democratic members of Congress over the Iraq war vote just before the elections of 2002, to choose just one example). If he says nothing about the DSM, he risks it continuing to proliferate exponentially, with more and more mainstream, heartland, media hurling devastating and unanswered body blows at the Bush administration, until ultimately a tidal wave of rage crests over 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But if he addresses it head on, he risks making tens of millions of Americans aware of something they presently are not, with most of them likely to then see the plain message of this evidence for exactly what it is.

Hobson's choice or not, at the rate things are progressing, the White House will have to respond, and likely soon. Just this week a chorus of impeachment calls has echoed across the alternative media, including even one (at least) from a conservative source, Paul Craig Roberts of the Hoover Institution, who accuses Bush of "intentionally deceiving Congress and the American people in order to start a war of aggression against a country that posed no threat to the United States". He goes on to note, quite accurately, that "As intent as Republicans were to impeach President Bill Clinton for lying about a sexual affair, they have a blind eye for President Bush's far more serious lies".

To get a sense of how frightened and vulnerable the Bush team is, consider McClellan's response to a reporter's question about the letter sent by 89 members of the House calling for an explanation of the Downing Street Memo. McClellan said the White House saw "no need" to answer the letter. This tells us three things, right off the bat. First, the Bush administration is blocking Congress from performing its constitutionally mandated duty of oversight of the executive. Well, no surprise there. Second - and, again, absolutely no surprise - this White House has once more demonstrated its seemingly inexhaustible capacity to break all prior records for arrogance. Napoleon couldn't touch this stuff, and neither could Nero. Imagine believing that you're above answering basic questions posed by Congress about the single biggest issue of our time. Imagine seeing "no need" to explain to the country why documentary evidence exists showing that you lied your way into a war which continues to consume American soldiers by the thousands, with no end in sight. Now, that's how they do it in the big leagues.

But experience reminds us that arrogance and bullying behavior almost always serve to mask massive insecurities just beneath, bringing us to the third revelation which can be extrapolated from McClellan's non-comment. Think about it. The gravest possible accusation has been made against the president and his team, emanating from, among others, one-fifth of the House of Representatives. In addition to its moral implications, it has the political capacity to topple the presidency and perhaps kill the entire regressive right movement of the last quarter-century. It is, in short, some very serious business. Knowing what we know about how these folks viciously attack anyone who besmirches them in the slightest, what are we to make of their silence on this most lethal - this most existential - of political attacks? No doubt they are completely trapped by the evidence and can only hope and pray the Memo just goes away. But ever true to form, McClellan, Bush, Cheney and the whole lot of them would be strewing carnage across the landscape on this issue if they could get away with it. Just ask CBS, Newsweek, Amnesty International, Paul O'Neill, Richard Clarke, John McCain or John Kerry. Get in their way, and the attacks come hard, fast and personal. That they are not now in full assault mode further affirms the accuracy and power of the Memo, as well as suggesting that the White House is strategically trapped between a rock and a hard place. Perhaps they even find themselves in shock and awe.

[ snip ]

Impeachment is completely warranted for the crimes committed by the Bush administration, and we must relentlessly demand this outcome. As mentioned above, there are potentially exquisite ironies in this case, and this is one of them. Having impeached Clinton for lying about oral sex, how ridiculous would Republicans now appear trying to argue that there is no impeachable offense here?

Another example of sublime irony might be produced by a court case, perhaps over a wrongful death charge. Cindy Sheehan (bless you for your sacrifice, and for your tireless work to save others from the same fate), are you reading this? History is calling your name. And once again, imagine the patently obvious hypocrisy of Republicans trying to prevent the president from having to testify in such a case, after they just got through establishing a legal precedent for the same by forcing Clinton to do so, while in office, over the far less harmful allegation of sexual harassment.

And, in yet another example of exquisite irony, imagine how unsympathetic the judiciary is likely to be toward them, after the radical right has excoriated judges who don't bend to their will, to the point that GOP senators have offered justifications for recent violence directed against judges.

Read the whole article. It's quite interesting.

It's Not Just Me, Is It?

I've been reading some blogs by academics who comment on their problem students without providing any identification for said students. I'm surprised at the similarity of their experiences.

More than one has reported on a student who fails a course, or receives a very low grade, who then blames the professor for the grade. Often the problem student has simply stopped coming to class and fails to complete assignments. In almost all cases the student who goes to the department head with their complaint loses that battle, too, once the department head reviews the grade sheet and syllabus. In other words, the department head backs the professor once the professor demonstrates the student truly deserved the low or failing grade, based on the syllabus and completed (or lack of) work.

I'm quite aware, however, that such is not always the outcome. In this age of "customer service" mentality exhibited by some colleges concerned with retaining students and their tuition dollars, the student has a greater chance of whining his or her way to a better grade, even if it isn't deserved. Some department chairs do not back their faculty even when the evidence clearly establishes the student has failed the course.

And in small schools, word can get around pretty quickly which department heads give the breaks to the students.

More than one academic blogger has commented on the sense of entitlement to good grades many students exhibit today. I'm guessing it is a relatively small percentage of the total college student population. And a certain percentage have likely always had a sense of entitlement to good grades. But I also think the percentage has grown over the past 30 years. There's far too much discussion in the academy about grade inflation for me to believe otherwise.

One wonders what these students will do in the real world when their employer doesn't share their sense of entitlement, especially with the continuing tight job market. One also wonders what our society has done to create this sense of entitlement. I'm all in favor of wanting something better for your children, and am certainly the beneficiary of a generation believing its children should and would do better. But I also don't believe I had any thing just handed to me.

While my parents certainly tried to make my life as comfortable as possible, they expected me to contribute to that comfort level, and to earn what they worked hard to provide. That meant working around the house (what used to be called chores), holding a job that provided my spending money, some of which had to be saved for college, and trying my best at what ever I undertook. They didn't expect me to be perfect. They didn't even expect me to always be successful. But I at least had to try, or accept the consequences of my (in)action.

Have we lost that ideal? Am I looking at the past with rose-colored glasses?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

I'm Baaaaack!

Returned to the land of big churches today, from a week-long visit to New Mexico. The state's motto is Land of Enchantment, and the slogan is dead-on.

This was my first visit to the state, although I did drive across I-40 on a return drive to California. But I was tired of the road and ready to be home, so didn't appreciate the beauty of the drive.

This trip included a stop in Tucumcari where we (the wife and I) found the Route 66 icon Blue Swallow Motel closed and seemingly for sale. A drive through Santa Rosa resulted in the discovery of a second Route 66 landmark gone, the Club Cafe with the Smiling Fat Man now on another restaurant. The Mother Road was still fun for the portions we were able to drive. We discovered a cow calmly grazing on the side of the road, somehow finding its way out of a fenced pasture. A short time later we spotted three mule deer grazing in a field until we stopped to watch them. After watching us watch them watch us for a few minutes, one walked off over a hill followed soon after by the other two.

We took many drives to see as much landscape as possible. I am amazed at how beautiful the desert can be. We chose an excellent time to visit the state with much flora in bloom. The juniper and pinon trees were richly green, the cacti were flowering, even the scrub brush looked green and healthy.

And then there are the mountains and mesas and rolling hills. The shear, smooth cliff walls of sandstone, and the inclines speckled with the rocks and boulders that fell to form those walls. Bands of rich color that a geologist could use to explain the age of the land. And in the middle of a mountain range, a high, expansive valley of grasses gently waving in the breeze.

We visited the Very Large Array astronomical radio observatory on the plains of San Agustin west of Socorro. The VLA appeared in the 1997 movie "Contact."
An amazing sight visible from several miles away. They even repositioned one of the 25 meters (82 feet) in diameter dishes while we stood beneath it.

Next was a visit to El Malpais National Monument, an area full of volcanic features such as lava flows, cinder cones, pressure ridges and complex lava tube systems. Black lava rock covers the area, with a surprising amount of vegetation growing out of it. The lava butts up against sandstone mountains, creating a dramatic, visibly sudden change in topography.

We took an evening ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway, the world's longest aerial tramway. The 2.7-mile long tramway rises from the desert floor to the top of 10,378 foot Sandia Peak. A storm was rolling in to Albuquerque as we rode up the mountain, and we were able to watch mesmerizing lightning strikes across the city. The temperature at the base of the tram was in the high 80s, but only in the low 50s at the top!. Fortunately, we had coats for our stay on the mountain. The storm provided some gusty winds, making photo taking a bit shaky. The storm also dropped snow on us, which melted quickly, but made for a unique visit to the peak!

A scenic drive up U.S. 550 and New Mexico 4 included a stop at the Coronado State Monument, the partially reconstructed ruins of the ancient Pueblo of Kuaua. We also viewed the Soda Dam, a 300-foot long natural dam formed from mineral deposits of calcium carbonate, located in the Santa Fe National Forest. And we drove through Los Alamos, the once-remote mountain city where the nuclear age was born.

We also made a day-trip to Santa Fe which included the Plaza, the Palace of the Governors, St. Francis Cathedral, and the Loretto Chapel with its mysterious spiral staircase.

It was a relaxing, wonderful, and much-needed escape from Springfield. Photos will be posted soon.