Rapt attention

Saturday, May 31, 2008

LBJ Reconsidered

I wanted to post this excellent article written by Joseph Califano, published in today's Washington Post. I think that Johnson was the greatest President of my lifetime. Yes, he got stuck in the morass of Vietnam. But think of all the positive accomplishments on his watch: Head Start, Civil Rights Act of 1965, Great Society, Beautification of America, War on Poverty. It is amazing what he accomplished in such a limited time. He was a giant that could twist arms (and ears on occasion) and get things accomplished in a bipartisan fashion.

The Price Of Forgetting A Presidency

By Joseph A. Califano Jr.
Saturday, May 31, 2008;
John Edwards made reducing poverty a centerpiece of his presidential campaign. Yet he never mentioned Lyndon Johnson, the first -- and only -- president to declare war on poverty and sharply reduce it.

Recounting the achievements of Democratic presidents, Barack Obama cites Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John Kennedy -- but not LBJ, the president responsible for the laws that gave him (and millions of others) the opportunity to develop and display their talents and gave this nation the opportunity to benefit from them.

When Hillary Clinton noted that "it took a president" to translate Martin Luther King's moral protests into laws, she broke the taboo and mentioned Johnson, only to be rebuked.

Lyndon Johnson is the invisible president of the 20th century. The tragedy of Vietnam created a cloud that still obscures Johnson's achievements.

Our nation -- particularly Democrats -- pays a high price for indulging in this amnesia. If we make Johnson's presidency invisible, we break the chain of this nation's progressive tradition and deny people an understanding of its achievements and resilience from the time of Theodore Roosevelt.

Worse, we lose key lessons for our democracy: that courage counts and that government can work to benefit the least among us in ways that enhance all of us.

Americans under 40 have seen in Washington only administrations that were anti-government, mired in scandal, inept, gridlocked, driven by polls, or tilted toward the rich and powerful. For decades Americans have endured political micromanagement in which passage of one bill -- welfare reform, No Child Left Behind -- over an entire Congress or presidential term is considered an accomplishment.

President Johnson submitted and Congress enacted more than 100 major proposals in each of the 89th and 90th Congresses. His initiatives included establishing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and endowments for the arts and humanities as well as environmental and consumer protections.

But his heart was in the War on Poverty. When Johnson took office, 22.2 percent of Americans lived in poverty. When he left, only 13 percent were living below the poverty line -- the greatest one-time poverty reduction in U.S. history. Johnson proposed and convinced Congress to enact Medicare, which today covers 43 million older Americans; Medicaid, which covers 63 million needy individuals; the loan, grant and work-study programs that more than 60 percent of college students use; aid to elementary and secondary education in poor areas; Head Start; food stamps, which help feed 27 million men, women and children; increases in the minimum Social Security benefit, which keep 10 million seniors out of poverty; and an array of programs designed to empower the poor at the grass roots.

No president since Johnson has been able to effect any significant reduction in poverty. In 2006, the poverty level stood at 12.3 percent; today is it almost certainly higher.

He also threw himself into the fight against racial discrimination. In 1964 there were 300 black elected officials in America. By 2001, there were some 10,000 elected black officials across the nation, more than 6,000 of them in the South. In 1965, there were six black members of the House; today there are 42; the only black member of the Senate is headed for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Behind these achievements are important lessons for future presidents. LBJ was a revolutionary whose conviction that poverty and racial discrimination were moral issues helped shape the nation's response.

He knew that the political capital from the sympathy generated by John Kennedy's assassination and the huge margin of his own election in 1964 was a dwindling asset. He saw himself in a race against time as he fought to remedy the damage that slavery and generations of prejudice had inflicted on black Americans. In his War on Poverty, he sized up the limited patience of Congress and affluent Americans.

Johnson had extraordinary courage and fought for racial equality even when it hurt him and his party. After signing the Civil Rights Act in 1964, Johnson was defeated in five Southern states, four of which Democrats had not lost for 80 years. In 1965, he drove the Voting Rights Act through Congress, and in 1966, he proposed legislation to end discrimination in housing.

In the 1966 midterm elections, Democrats lost 47 seats in the House and three in the Senate. Border-state and Southern Democratic governors and members of Congress demanded that Johnson withdraw his housing proposal and curb his efforts to desegregate schools. Undeterred, in 1968, he pushed the Fair Housing Act through Congress.

Those who seek to change the ways of Washington should remember, too, that Johnson knew how to reach across the aisle. He assiduously courted Republican members of Congress to support his Great Society proposals, not only because he needed Republican votes to pass the initiatives but because he saw bipartisan support as an essential foundation on which to build lasting commitment among Americans. He knew that the endurance of his legislative achievements and their acceptance by state and local governments, private interests, and citizens required bipartisan support.

Too many lessons of Lyndon Johnson's presidency have been lost, because the Democratic Party, the academic elite, political analysts and the media have made him the invisible president. It's time to take off the Vietnam blinders and see his entire presidency.

The writer was President Lyndon Johnson's special assistant for domestic affairs from 1965 to 1969. This op-ed is adapted from a speech he gave this month marking the 100th anniversary of Johnson's birth.

The Water Is Wide - Indigo Girls/ MacLachlan/ Jewel

McClellan Redux

The most interesting thing that I have gleaned from the excerpts I have read from McClellan's memoir on his employ as Bush P.R. Flak has nothing to do with G.W.'s well documented use of cocaine in his party years. I find far more fascinating the story of how McClellan publicly denied that Karl Rove and Scooter Libby had anything to do with the Valerie Plame leak (at the urging of Andy Card) only to have Bush one day in April of 2006 aboard Air Force One tell him that he himself had authorized the leak . Talk about being hung out to dry.

I watched many of his Press Conferences and I think that lying to the public on a daily basis just made him miserable and having lost all self respect, he had to bail.

Now the Republican attack machine is floating some mind control angle that the book is the result of a nefarious democratic ghostwriter and that McClellan is the victim of a Manchurian Candidate like conspiracy. See Novak's latest broadside. Everyone is so puzzled, it just doesn't sound like our Scott. Time for these liars to stop drinking the kool-aid and look in the mirror.

Friday, May 30, 2008

More Political Posturing?

It is hard not to conclude that the administration and its supposedly nonpartisan allies and agencies are spinning everything towards the election date.

From today's Miami Herald:
9/11 trial sought during presidential campaign
Posted on Thu, May. 29, 2008
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Defense lawyers for the alleged 9/11 conspirators on Thursday accused the Pentagon prosecutor of rushing to begin the complex Sept. 11, 2001, mass-murder trial in the height of the presidential campaign season.

The U.S. military attorneys included the claim in a 20-page brief asking the military judge to dismiss the capital charges against alleged al Qaeda kingpin Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other Guantánamo detainees.

The document includes an e-mail from a civilian member of the prosecution team proposing to set the trial date for Sept. 15, the Monday after the seventh anniversary of the suicide attacks.

''Not coincidentally,'' the defense attorneys say, ``that would force the trial of this case in mid-September, some seven weeks before the general elections.''

The date, in fact, is 10 days after Sen. John McCain, an architect of Military Commissions law, is expected to be officially nominated as the Republican presidential candidate at the GOP national convention in St. Paul, Minn.

''Three months and 18 days is not enough time to prepare a defense in this death penalty case even if the government had provided the defense with the attorneys, resources, and facilities necessary to do so,'' said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, attorney for Ammar al Baluchi, who is also known as Ali Abdul Aziz Ali.

A Pentagon spokesman denied the trial schedule was linked to the national political campaign season. ''We're moving forward with the trials,'' said Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon. ``And we're going to continue with the process.''


In other signs of the drive to get more cases to trial this year:

• The Defense Department on Thursday issued preliminary conspiracy charges against three alleged al Qaeda bomb-makers -- two Saudis and an Algerian -- raising the total number of currently active prosecutions to 17. Sufiyan Barhoumi, Jibran Qahtani and Ghassan Sharbi, long-held Guantánamo detainees, face maximum life sentences, if convicted.

• The military replaced an Army judge who had threatened to suspend the commission trial of Canadian captive Omar Khadr, until the prison camps at Guantánamo release Khadr's health records to defense attorneys. Military commissions sources had earlier indicated that the judge, Col. Peter E. Brownback III, was weighing his retirement.

By law, U.S.-held detainees charged at the war court must be tried within 120 days of finalization of charges -- unless the defense team is granted a delay.

All five men in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror-attack case face possible execution, if convicted. Civilian and military criminal defense lawyers have predicted it will take a year to prepare, in part because it's a death-penalty case and classified information is being used.


Defense lawyers have claimed for some time that the Pentagon is rushing to trial before President Bush leaves the White House in January, or cited alleged internal debates by appointees about whether charges could be brought for political gain or to capture the imagination of the American people.

The latest brief raises the allegations a notch a week before the five men go before a military judge for their arraignment, or official reading of charges.

The Pentagon is organizing for large-scale coverage of the first-ever appearances of the former CIA-held captives.

It has invited 60 national and international journalists to be airlifted to Guantánamo from Andrews Air Force Base a day ahead of the trial date and then taken back to the Washington Beltway the next day.

From the Guardian UK:
CIA chief claims al-Qaida essentially defeated in Iraq and Saudi Arabia

* Ewen MacAskill in Washington
* guardian.co.uk,
* Friday May 30 2008
* Article history

The CIA changed direction again today in its assessment of al-Qaida, claiming it has been essentially defeated in Iraq and Saudi Arabia and is on the defensive throughout most of the rest of the world.

The upbeat assessment comes less than a year after US intelligence reported that al-Qaida had rebuilt its strength around the world and was well-placed to launch fresh attacks.

But, in an interview with the Washington Post published this morning, Michael Hayden, the CIA director, said: "On balance, we are doing pretty well. Near strategic defeat of al-Qaida in Iraq. Near strategic defeat for al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia. Significant setbacks for al-Qaida globally - and here I'm going to use the word 'ideologically', as a lot of the Islamic world pushes back on their form of Islam."

Hayden cited US success in using Predator drones to strike against suspected al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan, including the killings this year of Abu Laith al-Libi and Abu Sulayman al-Jazairi.

Hayden said: "The ability to kill and capture key members of al-Qaida continues, and keeps them off balance - even in their best safe haven along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border,"

He added that capturing Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, still at large seven years after 9/11, remained a top priority.

Various US intelligence analysts, while accepting that al-Qaida has suffered various setbacks, questioned whether this would be permanent and noted al-Qaida activity in Afghanistan and continuing plots against European targets.

Mike Scheur, the former chief of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit, said it may be that Hayden's comments may be aimed at trying to exploit recent outbursts by Muslim clerics against al-Qaida.

He added that Hayden had a reputation within the agency for being frank and honest but these comments might put a dent in it.

"The stuff on the ground that you can measure does not look like a strategic defeat for al-Qaida. When you look on the ground, they are expanding in the Levant and across North Africa. They have fought the US to a standstill in Iraq and Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden has not been caught. They have the initiative in Afghanistan."

Vincent Cannistraro, former chief of operations and analysis at the CIA's counter-terrorist centre, said Hayden was going public about a consensus reached within the agency about six weeks ago that al-Qaida had been weakened.

"The question is whether it is permanent or not. There is no real agreement on that," he said.

Although it was an embarrassment for the US that neither bin laden or Zawahiri had been caught, Cannistraro said, there is a lot of intelligence about Zawahiri, mainly because he is more publicity hungry than bin Laden.

"There is intelligence about where he (Zawahiri) has been but they no real time intelligence. They are about 24-48 hours behind him," he said, adding that they were closing in too on bin Laden.

Jarret Brachman, director of research at West Point's Combating Terrorism Centre, said he agreed with Hayden about successes in Saudi Arabia and Iraq

"Nonetheless, we must recognise their organization is capable of re-surging if given sufficient breathing space. We must also recognise that AQ's senior leadership has called their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan the most important areas of focus for their movement. AQ will not go down quietly," Brachman said.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hopeful and Unusual Occurrence

From the BBC:

Bahrain names Jewish ambassador
Houda Nonoo

Ms Nonoo is a businesswoman with homes in Bahrain and London.

Bahrain's king has appointed a Jewish woman as the country's envoy to the United States.

Houda Nonoo said she was proud to serve her country "first of all as a Bahraini" and that she was not chosen for the post because of her religion.

She is believed to be the Arab world's first Jewish ambassador.

Ms Nonoo, 43, has served as a legislator in Bahrain's 40-member Shura Council for three years and is head of the Bahrain Human Rights Watch.

"It is a great honour to have been appointed as the first female ambassador to the United States of America and I am looking forward to meeting this new challenge," Ms Nonoo told the Associated Press news agency.

Her family is originally from Iraq, having moved to Bahrain over a century ago.

Bahrain has one of the world's oldest and smallest Jewish communities. It was, at one time, home to as many as 1,500 Jews. Today the community has a synagogue and numbers around 50 people.

Bahrain is a close US ally but has no diplomatic relations with Israel.

It has a Shia Muslim majority, roughly 65% of the population, but the ruling elite is Sunni.

I think this is very cool - first because of the innate hostility to jews in the middle east, and also because she is a woman in a society where woman have little voice.. .

Cheney in 1994 on Iraq

Iraq P.R. Push?

I don't know if anyone else is noticing but there seems to be a lot of real cheery news coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan lately, courtesy of the Bush Administration. Our Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, claimed last sunday that "Al Qaeda (in Iraq, not to be too confused with the real Al Qaeda, the ones that bombed the World Trade Center) has never been closer to defeat.

"There is important progress for the Iraqi forces in confronting the militias,'' he said, speaking in Arabic to reporters.

"You are not going to hear me say that al-Qaeda is defeated, but they've never been closer to defeat than they are now,'' Crocker claimed.

Our vice president, Dick Cheney, or as Scott McClellan would call him," The Magic Man", gave a commencement address to the Coast Guard last week where he optimistically forecasted victory on the "watch" of the new recruits.

From the AP:

NEW LONDON, Connecticut — Vice President Dick Cheney told newly minted Coast Guard officers Wednesday that the "war on terror" would be won on their watch and dismissed fears that fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan would drag on indefinitely.

Cheney, sporting a cowboy hat, said the troop surge in Iraq "has succeeded brilliantly."
"The war on terror is a lengthy enterprise, but it does not have to go on forever," he told more than 200 graduating cadets during the 127th commencement at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

"The only way to lose this fight is to quit. That would be irresponsible," Cheney said. "More than that, quitting would be an act of betrayal and dishonor. And it's not going to happen on our watch."

General Petraeus said last week that troop cuts are likely in the fall. His top general Odierno was equally hopeful. General Odierno said the Iraqi security forces' ability to do their own "command and control" operations has seen "consistent improvement" but there is still room for progress.

Our great leader himself, President Bush, says that "good progress" has been made in bringing democracy and stability to both war-ravaged countries.

Now excuse me for a little cynicism but does anyone else feel like we are getting hit with a well timed Public Relations snow job? I know that we have elections coming up in the fall but the timing of all this good news has me just a little befuddled. What's the old expression, "don't piss on my leg and tell me its raining?" This administration has cried wolf so many times and has proven to be such a master at propagandizing and manipulating public opinion, excuse me if I don't bite this time.

The news I have digested says that the recent surge in Basra has succeeded in quelling intra shia division and reducing the number of attacks on our forces. Fair enough, I hope so. But has the number of zealots waiting to blow themselves up for the ticket to the 92 virgins really decreased? My bet is that they can and will destabilize the situation at will at any time, unfortunately. Let's not get too giddy with all this good news.

We need to realize that we are dealing with a foreign culture that is so completely alien to our notion of morality that the chasm can not be bridged - and until we figure that out, precious american blood will continue to be sucked down the drain. Do we have a realistic exit strategy? Are we going to allow ourselves to fall for the GOP party line once again? John McCain says that he will never surrender - what will this continuation of the current administration's policies mean for America if he is elected? Is this current "rose colored" prognosis merely a cheap strategy to get some republicans reelected this fall?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Beating a dead horse (or rock) department

This from the Archives of the Las Vegas Review Journal December. 2001 - rather dated but you can see how bad environmental news tends to follow this company around... The question must be asked - are they responsible environmental stewards or not?


California agency

faces pollution fines

The California Department of Transportation faces possible fines of up to $50,000 over water quality violations from construction work on Interstate 80 east of Truckee.

The Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board is proposing $10,000 fines for five separate violations between July 10 and Sept. 19 involving unauthorized discharges of turbid water into the Truckee River.

In some cases, storm runoff from uncovered stockpiles of soil sent more significant amounts of turbid water into the Truckee, Caltrans officials acknowledge.

Lahontan will hold a two-day public hearing beginning Jan. 9 to determine if the fines will be upheld, dismissed or reduced.

Eric Taxer, a Lahontan water quality specialist, said all violations occurred between July 10 and Sept. 19 on an I-80 project between Truckee and Floriston.

While Lahontan is holding Caltrans responsible, the violations resulted from work performed by the prime contractor and subcontractors, Caltrans officials said.

"The majority (of violations) are from subcontractors," Caltrans engineer Kirk Carrington told Truckee's Sierra Sun newspaper.

He declined to name the companies. Granite Construction is the prime contractor.

Caltrans was required to report the violations to Lahontan.

"We have a permit with Caltrans, and any enforcement action we take is with Caltrans," Taxer said. "The purpose of the penalty is to act as a deterrent."

Any fines imposed likely will be passed on to Granite Construction and subcontractors, Carrington said.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Liberty Quarry

I always have to check my hypocrisy levels when I talk about land use issues. You see, I was a real estate developer for many years and know both the lay of the land and how the game is played. I have been pretty quiet on the proposed Liberty Quarry site between Fallbrook and Temecula, although I did produce a concert in June of 2006 for the opponents.

The city of Temecula is exploring the possibility of annexation to thwart the developer, Granite Construction's plans. Granite is a behemoth, their contractor's license number is like 12 or something. Very old company with a slick P.R. Team. A Watsonville concern, they did a great job of putting the politicians in their pocket prior to even disclosing their proposal. Hollingsworth and Issa were both early supporters. I haven't kept up that much on the political battle lately.

However I think that a couple of points should be made regarding this and other similar land use decisions. Granite says that the project will benefit the public because it will offer a cheap, local source of aggregate. However they have already been issued permits for the Rosemary's Mountain Quarry, what 10 miles away? Is it really necessary to create another huge quarry site with all the attendant concerns?

We can not continue the growth cycle we have been binging on for the last 20 or 30 years. We don't have the water! Local farmers are getting rationed and with climate change, even more dire water scarcity is forecast. What happens when new roads are built to relieve congestion? Go check out how far Melrose extends in Encinitas and what has happened around it. Rather than relieving congestion, these new arteries just coo come hither to more randy homebuilders, and bring new population to compete for available water.

I have lived on either side of the proposed quarry for the last 28 years. It is a beautiful untouched space, something we respect. It isn't always easy living miles out on a dirt road. But we willingly put up with the hardship because we enjoy the peace, freedom and solitude. Yet we must be so vigilant now in guarding this and similar other projects, because they are just a fat easy plum, waiting to be picked by the Granites of this world. Check out Valley Center and its current road extension drama for similar chicanery. They have to dump on incorporated towns without political power, you think that they would stand for this in say, Rancho Santa Fe?

I ask all local residents to make themselves more aware of the pluses and minus's of this project and get politically active.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

More from the good folks at Granite Co.

State picked least-skilled bidder or Hwy. 20 repair
10:45 PM PDT on Saturday, August 4, 2007
SALEM, Ore. -- The state picked the bidder with the least geotechnical expertise for the suspended massive repair job to U.S. 20 because the other two bids were higher, The Oregonian reports in its Sunday editions.

But underestimation of extensive erosion and landslides is what has stalled the shortening and straightening of a dangerous segment of the highway between Corvallis and Newport.

The state picked California-based Granite Construction Co., whose low scores in geotechnical engineering still were considered satisfactory based on the company's construction record.

Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Joe Harwood said the current problems could have cropped up no matter who was chosen for the job.

The projected cost of the project, about $21 million for each of its seven miles, could rise to $30 million per mile.

Granite wants out of the contract it signed in 2005, saying they have run into so many deep and buried landslides that they will incur $61 million in cost overruns.

The state and Granite have suspended the contract for up to two years while Oregon figures out how to deal with the issue and possibly lower the cost.

Normally, ODOT would design the project then hire the lowest bidder to do the work.

But under the newer "design-build" contract used on Highway 20, the builder is responsible for design, engineering and construction, making expertise essential to success.

The state scores bidders in a complex system on points ranging from matters of environmental considerations to project management. Cost is worth 60 percent of the scoring and quality factors are worth 40 percent.

Granite had the lowest overall score, 1,760 out of a possible 3,300, and scored 286 out of 600 points for geotechnical engineering.

Kiewit Pacific had 369 and Atkinson-Parsons had 377.

Because cost factors outweighed quality, Granite got the job with a bid of $133 million against competing bids of $142.5 million and $158 million.

Forest Dill, chief estimator for Atkinson, said the difference reflected additional costs for dealing with unstable landscape, control of landslides and other problems.

In March, a subsidiary of Granite asked the state to release or suspend its contract to build the road and eight bridges.

The company said it discovered the landslides when it drilled bore holes at bridgeheads. Engineers said earth movement could reactivate the landslides.

Granite began work in spring 2006 but was not installing erosion control measures, and heavy rains let muddy water into salmon-bearing streams.

The state Department of Environmental Quality fined ODOT $90,000, claiming the state, not the company, was responsible for ensuring the contractor met environmental regulations.

Damage to salmon streams prompted the Oregon State Police to launch a criminal investigation.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

From Science Daily, this is rather extraordinary.
Another hundredth monkey scenario where rapid alteration turns Darwinism on its head. Of course Dr. Rupert Sheldrake wrote about the phenomenon 30 years ago - I provide a link at the bottom of my blog. He talked about morphogenetic field theory, where DNA gets altered and information is transmitted in a remarkably non linear fashion.

Lizards Undergo Rapid Evolution After Introduction To A New Home
ScienceDaily (Apr. 18, 2008) — In 1971, biologists moved five adult pairs of Italian wall lizards from their home island of Pod Kopiste, in the South Adriatic Sea, to the neighboring island of Pod Mrcaru. Now, an international team of researchers has shown that introducing these small, green-backed lizards, Podarcis sicula, to a new environment caused them to undergo rapid and large-scale evolutionary changes.

“Striking differences in head size and shape, increased bite strength and the development of new structures in the lizard’s digestive tracts were noted after only 36 years, which is an extremely short time scale,” says Duncan Irschick, a professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “These physical changes have occurred side-by-side with dramatic changes in population density and social structure.”
Researchers returned to the islands twice a year for three years, in the spring and summer of 2004, 2005 and 2006. Captured lizards were transported to a field laboratory and measured for snout-vent length, head dimensions and body mass. Tail clips taken for DNA analysis confirmed that the Pod Mrcaru lizards were genetically identical to the source population on Pod Kopiste.
Observed changes in head morphology were caused by adaptation to a different food source. According to Irschick, lizards on the barren island of Pod Kopiste were well-suited to catching mobile prey, feasting mainly on insects. Life on Pod Mrcaru, where they had never lived before, offered them an abundant supply of plant foods, including the leaves and stems from native shrubs. Analysis of the stomach contents of lizards on Pod Mrcaru showed that their diet included up to two-thirds plants, depending on the season, a large increase over the population of Pod Kopiste.
“As a result, individuals on Pod Mrcaru have heads that are longer, wider and taller than those on Pod Kopiste, which translates into a big increase in bite force,” says Irschick. “Because plants are tough and fibrous, high bite forces allow the lizards to crop smaller pieces from plants, which can help them break down the indigestible cell walls.”
Examination of the lizard’s digestive tracts revealed something even more surprising. Eating more plants caused the development of new structures called cecal valves, designed to slow the passage of food by creating fermentation chambers in the gut, where microbes can break down the difficult to digest portion of plants. Cecal valves, which were found in hatchlings, juveniles and adults on Pod Mrcaru, have never been reported for this species, including the source population on Pod Kopiste.
“These structures actually occur in less than 1 percent of all known species of scaled reptiles,” says Irschick. “Our data shows that evolution of novel structures can occur on extremely short time scales. Cecal valve evolution probably went hand-in-hand with a novel association between the lizards on Pod Mrcaru and microorganisms called nematodes that break down cellulose, which were found in their hindguts.”
Change in diet also affected the population density and social structure of the Pod Mrcaru population. Because plants provide a larger and more predictable food supply, there were more lizards in a given area on Pod Mrcaru. Food was obtained through browsing rather than the active pursuit of prey, and the lizards had given up defending territories.
“What is unique about this finding is that rapid evolution can affect not only the structure and function of a species, but also influence behavioral ecology and natural history,” says Irschick.
Results of the study were published March 25 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the Fund for Scientific Research in Flanders. Additional members of the research team include Anthony Herrel of Harvard University and the University of Antwerp, Kathleen Huyghe, Bieke Vanhooydonck, Thierry Backeljau and Raoul Van Damme of the University of Antwerp, Karin Breugelmans of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and Irena Grbac of the Croatian Natural History Museum.
Adapted from materials provided by University Of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Grateful Dead - Peggy O - 6-26-94

Hot Night in Vegas! I miss the Silver Bowl!

Granite Construction - Industrial Polluter

Jerri Arganda sent this over. As some of you know, Granite Constuction is attempting to site a huge quarry a little over a half mile from my house on the other side of the Santa Margarita Ecological Preserve. This quarry has the patriotic sobriquet of Liberty Quarry as in denying us our own. We are concerned about dust, silicate particulants, water quality ( a stream flows through the property and runs into the Santa Margarita), noise, loss in property value and the attendant loss of our general peace of mind. They have been very adversarial in the past but are quick to proclaim the benign environmental effects of their services. Their hired gun is named Gary Johnson. I will try to follow up on Granite's appeal of this citation.

This from the State of Oregon - Department of Environmental Quality:

News Release

For release: September 4, 2007

Jeff Bachman, Office of Compliance and Enforcement, Portland, (503) 229-5950
Brian White, Communications and Outreach, Portland, (503) 229-6044
Mike Wolf, Water Quality Division, Eugene, (541) 686-7848

DEQ Penalizes California-based Contractor on State Highway Project $240,000 for Water Pollution Violations

Agency cites Granite Construction for 40 of 61 violations regarding discharges into Yaquina River and its tributaries from June 2006 through May 2007.

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has issued penalties totaling $240,000 against a California-based construction company for numerous water quality violations during its work on the U.S. Highway 20 Pioneer Mountain to Eddyville realignment project in Lincoln County.

DEQ issued the fine on Aug. 29 to Granite Construction Co., based in Watsonville, Calif. The firm is the lead contractor with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) for ODOT’s major Pioneer Mountain to Eddyville project. The realignment project is aimed at straightening dangerous curves and improving traffic flow along the highway’s crossing of the Coast Range between Newport and Corvallis. ODOT had awarded a $130 million contract in June 2005 to the Yaquina River Constructors, a joint venture team comprised of Granite Construction Co. and Wilder Construction Co., a majority-owned subsidiary of Granite Construction Co.

The violations, many of which involved discharge of sediments into Yaquina River tributaries as well as one case of discharging to the Yaquina River itself, occurred from June 2006 through this past May. In July, ODOT and Granite Construction reached an agreement in principle to temporarily suspend the project for up to two years, beginning Sept. 1, 2007, to allow both parties to complete additional geotechnical site investigations to address potential problems with landslides along the realignment route.

In assessing the penalties, DEQ expressed serious concerns about Granite Construction’s failure to take into account potential impacts to water quality when it decided to clear roughly 160 acres of steeply sloped terrain in the project area during the summer of 2006, shortly after work began on the project. DEQ was also alarmed about the company’s failure to implement adequate erosion controls before the onset of the 2006-07 rainy season in the Coast Range. Due to lack of adequate protective measures, silt and sediment from the cleared, steep slopes eroded and discharged into the Yaquina River and several of its tributaries, including Eddy Creek, Trapp Creek, Crystal Creek, Little Elk Creek and Cougar Creek. These streams provide valuable spawning and rearing habitat for sensitive fish species, including cutthroat and steelhead trout and coho, chinook and chum salmon.

The discharges increased the amount of organic matter and sediment into the river and tributaries, causing turbidity levels to exceed state standards. Deposition of sediments can harm aquatic life by covering up food sources, damaging fish gills, smothering fish eggs and invertebrate organisms living in stream beds, and impairing the ability of fish to feed and reproduce. DEQ noted a total of 61 water quality violations on the various affected streams, from incidents that took place beginning on June 8, 2006 and extending through May 2, 2007. Of these, penalty amounts were attached to 40 of the more serious violations.

On May 8, 2007, DEQ had fined ODOT $90,000 for violations of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit in association with the same highway project. ODOT did not appeal the penalty.

Granite Construction has until Sept 20 to appeal. The company has been making corrective actions at the site to help prevent further sediment discharge problems in the area while construction activities on the project are suspended.

The Monkees - Take A Giant Step

Graham Parker - Get started, start a fire

Sir Douglas Quintet - Mendocino

Friday, May 23, 2008

Needles and Pins - Chapter XV - the collaborative novel

It was a blazing hot day in Needles. One of those scorchers that even the die hard locals dreaded. It was 115 degrees in the shade! Most cities would cancel town hall meetings in weather like this, but not Needles, where life goes on. The City Council planned a meeting with the California Drug Task Force, U.S. Treasury, ATF, FBI, San Bernardino County Sheriffs, and the Arizona State Police. Needles Mayor Charles Cheeseman, aptly nicknamed "Cheeseburger Charlie" wanted to get to bottom of the problem. Why weren’t the Feds, State Police and local cops working together? "We've had more violent, drug related crimes this summer than ever before and the city is swarming with cops, yet nobody seems to cooperate in finding and arresting these thugs." said Cheeseman as he wiped the Niagara Falls of sweat off his forehead. It was 95 degrees inside the Needles City Hall Building.

The City Hall was old and in desperate need of repair. The swamp coolers could not keep up with the sweltering heat and with all the finger pointing going on it was getting hotter and hotter. Each agency blamed the others for not cooperating in their investigations. Basically nothing was getting solved, and the peoples tempers were getting to the boiling point, or as hot as the outside temperature. In the back of the room sat Irv. He attended most all of the city hall meetings. He had a brown paper bag with an egg sandwich and a thermos full of Lipton Tea. He also had with him a copy of a crude map left by one of those dirty hippie kids that came in to his shop to pawn jewelry and use his Xerox machine. Amongst the town folks attending the meeting was a very tired Lavelle. He had spent the entire night at the in the emergency ward of the hospital with his sister Delorez, who was in critical condition after her car wreck.

For over three hours one agency after another explained that they were the only ones doing their jobs and that they were not getting important information from the others. Finally Cheeseman called for a hour and a half recess so they could go for lunch and cool down. As he was leaving the City Hall Lavelle spotted his old friend Irving sitting on a bench in the park across the street and asked Irv if he wanted to go to the downtown Denny's for lunch? "No thank you, I hate Denny's, it's too expensive. I brought my lunch with me, but I'll share my sandwich with you. Oh, I have something else that might be of interest to you. It's a map of some building-I think the El Garces Hotel, it has your name on it and was signed by somebody named Jujubee." said Irv, as he used his shirt sleeve as a napkin to wipe the egg sandwich off his chin. A stunned Lavelle insisted "Please let me buy you lunch, Lets go sit in an air conditioned restaurant, I would really like to know how you got that map and what you know about it?" For some reason Irv decided not to give Lavelle the map. "Thanks, but no thanks, call me tomorrow-we'll talk, my son. How is your sister? I heard the bad news. I'll say a prayer for her tonight." mumbled Irv with a mouth full of egg sandwich. Lavelle seemed nervous. "I have faith in Jesus and I think she will pull through, but she's going to lose an eye. I'll call you tomorrow."

by kvj

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Issa and Waxman

From UT Newsblog:
May 20, 2008
Issa almost booted

Rep. Henry Waxman banged the gavel a half dozen times to silence Rep. Darrell Issa Tuesday.

According to Dow Jones Newswire, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee then told the Vista Republican: "I will have you physically removed from this meeting if you don't stop."

The confrontation came during a hearing in Washington when Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson refused to say whether he had spoken to President Bush before deciding various environmental policies.

The Dow Jones dispatch said Issa kept interrupting Waxman, D-Los Angeles, by saying that lawmakers were supposed to take turns speaking, rotating from one party to the next.

Issa said that White House involvement in EPA activities was nothing new and happened in the Clinton administration, according to The Associated Press. Furthermore, said Issa, such involvement "is allowed" under the law.

After that dust up, Johnson told Waxman that he has routine meetings with the president and did not think it was appropriate to discuss the details of what they say.

More Issing on the cake from Buzzflash

Darrell Issa: Pillar of Virtue

by Howard Hoffman

When Democrats fib, it's cannon fodder for talk shows and Republicans. When Republicans fib, it's time for all of us to just move on.

This is the continuing mindset as the LA Times on June 30 takes recall creator and now gubernatorial candidate Rep. Darrell Issa apart on a big ol' pile of his claims. Just a few examples:

Issa, who served two stints in the military, first as an enlisted man and later as an officer, has said that he was an Army computer research and development specialist. In a 1995 interview, he said that as an officer he had spent four years in the New Mexico desert perfecting electronic warfare techniques that were later used in the 1991 Gulf War.

His military records, however, list Issa's postings during that period as Ft. Riley, Kan., and Ft. Ord, Calif. Those records and Issa's 1980 Army separation form make no mention of computer training or computer specialty.


During his 1998 campaign for the Senate, at a time when he was trying to link his candidacy to the legacy of former president Richard Nixon, Issa's campaign literature said he had been a member of Nixon's security detail.

Issa had previously claimed attendance at the 1971 World Series as part of Nixon's security. Records show that Nixon did not attend the 1971 World Series, said Susan Naulty, archivist at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda.

In recent comments to The Times, Issa has stood by his claim of having served on Nixon's security detail, but has sidestepped the World Series claim, which has not been repeated in the current campaign.


Issa has often recalled his rags-to-riches rise in the business world. Issa's campaign Web site touts an achievement that seems to symbolize his story: "In 1994, Inc. Magazine recognized Darrell Issa as Entrepreneur of the Year."

In fact, Issa has never won the prestigious national award. The founders of Outback Steakhouse took the magazine's top "Entrepreneur of the Year" honors in 1994.


On Jan. 16, 1973, Issa pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of possession of an unregistered gun. A magistrate fined him $100, put him on probation and ordered him to pay $107 in court costs. At the time, Issa was a student at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Mich. The arrest was first reported by the Adrian Daily Telegram on July 16.

Asked earlier this month about that arrest, Issa told a Times reporter that the gun was an "unloaded, never-fired, in-the-box, little teeny pistol" and said it wasn't his, although he declined to say whose it was.

Public records obtained by The Times show that when arrested, Issa was carrying a .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol with seven bullets in its ammunition clip, as well as 44 bullets and a tear-gas gun.

And how does Issa respond to being caught in repeated lies?

"If there was any mistake on any bio, I wish somebody would point it out to me so we can clarify what is a small, honest error."

"That's from something years before, from a misquote, er, you know, interpretation, years before I even ran for office."

Okay...we know it's coming...

"There are details and details and details that have been used against me that are minutiae."

From Think Progress:
In 1982, Issa allegedly used deception to take control of Directed Electronics Inc. (then named, A.C. Custom) from a former business partner, Joseph Adkins. Adkins borrowed $60,000 from Issa with Adkins’ company stock serving as collateral. Issa made a verbal agreement to give Adkins extra time to repay; but later Issa obtained a court order to seize the stock despite the verbal agreement, a move Adkins describes as cheating him out of the company and Issa calls the only chance to protect his loan collateral.[4]

A day after the court order, Issa allegedly carried a cardboard box containing a handgun into the office of an A.C. Custom executive, Jack Frantz, and told Frantz he was fired. In a 1998 newspaper article, Frantz said Issa had invited him to hold the gun and claimed extensive knowledge of guns and explosives from his Army service. In response, Issa said, “Shots were never fired. … I don’t recall having a gun. I really don’t. I don’t think I ever pulled a gun on anyone in my life.”[5]

My Congressman, Darrell Issa

From the SF Gate

Issa was charged in San Jose car theft
Lance Williams and Carla Marinucci, Chronicle staff writers
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, the driving force behind the effort to recall Gov. Gray Davis, was prosecuted with his brother in San Jose in 1980 for allegedly faking the theft of Issa's Mercedes Benz sedan and selling it to a car dealer for $16,000, according to court records.
Issa, in a phone interview with The Chronicle Tuesday, blamed his brother for the car theft, which was detailed in documents on file in Santa Clara County Superior Court and which has never been made public.
"I do not steal," Issa said.
The second-term San Diego area congressman has pumped $1 million into the campaign to recall Davis and has declared he will run for governor should the recall qualify for the ballot this year. Issa's previous political campaigns have been roiled by allegations that twice -- once while a student in his hometown of Cleveland and once while a soldier in Pennsylvania -- he also was involved in car thefts.
In the San Jose case, Issa, who at the time was a 27-year-old U.S. Army officer, and William Issa, 29, were arrested by San Jose police on a felony auto-theft charge in February 1980.
They were accused of a scheme in which Issa's brother allegedly sold Issa's cherry-red Mercedes 240 to Smythe European Motors in San Jose for $13,000 cash and three $1,000 traveler's checks. Within hours, Issa reported the car stolen from a lot at the Monterey airport, near his Army post at Fort Ord.
Issa and his brother pleaded not guilty. A judge ordered them to stand trial on felony charges, saying he had a "strong suspicion" that the men had committed the crime, according to the records.

But in August 1980, a prosecutor dismissed the case for lack of evidence. The men later were charged with misdemeanors, but that case was not pursued, said retired police detective Richard Christiansen, lead investigator in the case.
Issa, 49, became a multimillionaire manufacturer of electronic auto alarms, including the popular "Viper" anti-theft device. "When people ask me why I got into the car alarm business, I tell them the truth," he said in a statement to The Chronicle. "It was because my brother was a car thief."
He was elected to Congress in 2000 from the San Diego County town of Vista after losing a bruising, high-profile campaign for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 1998.
In those campaigns, Issa denied allegations of car theft and sought to blame political opponents, including U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) for planting news stories about the allegations to discredit him.
"They can't beat us on a good stand-up-for-families, stand-up-for-law-and-order type agenda," he told the Riverside Press Enterprise during his 1998 Senate Race. "They have to do it with lies in the last minute of the campaign."

The San Jose case began on Dec. 28, 1979, when a bearded man identifying himself as "Lt. Darrell Issa" and using Darrell Issa's Ohio driver's license for identification drove up to Smythe European Motors on Stevens Creek Boulevard in a new Mercedes and said he wanted to sell it.
In a preliminary hearing, salesman Norris Poulsen testified that the driver -- police contended it was Issa's brother, using Darrell Issa's driver's license for identification -- agreed to take $16,000 for the car. Then he asked for a ride to a nearby Bank of America branch.
There, the driver obtained $13,000 cash and three $1,000 travelers' checks, said teller Marcela Lawrence.
Meanwhile, according to the records, Darrell Issa had called police, saying that upon his return from a Christmas vacation in Ohio he had discovered his Mercedes was missing from the parking lot at the Monterey airport. The car's pink slip had been locked in the trunk, Issa told police.
Police investigated the case for two months, records show. Detective Christiansen testified that he repeatedly had interviewed Issa by phone and had even driven with him from Monterey to the old Fort Hunter Liggett Army base south of Big Sur to distribute a police sketch of the person who had sold the Mercedes.
The detective said he suspected William Issa was the man who had sold the car because he closely resembled the sketch of the suspect. He began to suspect Darrell Issa also was involved because some of his statements seemed unbelievable or inconsistent, he said.
Christiansen said that at first, Darrell Issa had denied he had recently gotten a new driver's license. But later, the detective said Issa acknowledged that while in Ohio he had obtained two new driver's licenses -- one a renewal, the second to replace the first because he didn't like the photo on it.
Issa also said he didn't recognize the composite sketch but wanted to send a copy of it to his mother to see if she knew the man. Christiansen said he found that unbelievable. The sketch was "absolutely dead right on the brother, and how anyone in the family could fail to recognize him I couldn't understand," he said in a phone interview.
In legal papers, prosecutor Donald Mulvey contended that "Darrell falsely reported the theft of his vehicle at a time when he was aware that (William) had sold the vehicle to the dealership." The prosecutor also said Darrell Issa had tried to mislead police about his brother's role in the theft.

Efforts to reach William Issa Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Issa told The Chronicle that he believed police had targeted him because "they always thought I was not coming clean enough essentially to (help them) prosecute my brother." He blamed his brother for the San Jose arrest.
He said he couldn't answer every question about the case because "it's been enough years that I don't remember any level of details like that." But he denied complicity in the crime, saying, "It is impossible to believe that anyone would be stupid enough to steal a car and sell it under their own name."
Issa said he never tried to conceal his San Jose arrest. He said his campaign managers had advised him not to discuss it unless he was asked about it.
The Cleveland arrest "came out in the first election, and I asked my own people, 'Should we tell them about the other one?' " Issa said. "They said, 'No, they'll bring it out.' "
In court, defense lawyer William McCrone argued that Issa's statements to police should be thrown out because he hadn't been given a Miranda warning.
The lawyer also wanted the case dismissed because he said Issa's right to a speedy trial had been violated. He said that while the case was stalled, Issa had left the Army and obtained a job with a "major oil company," which fired him when it learned of the theft allegation.
William Issa's attorney contended that no crime had been committed because Darrell Issa had offered to buy the Mercedes back from the dealership for more than the amount it had paid.
The court rejected the arguments. But in August 1980, when the case was called for trial, the DA's office chose not to proceed, Christiansen said .
"Most auto thefts are fairly easy, but this one is obviously a lot more involved," he said. He said he had persuaded the district attorney's office to re-file the case as a misdemeanor, but it was never prosecuted.
The San Jose case was the second time that Issa and his brother were allegedly involved in car theft.
In 1972 Issa, then 19, was indicted with his brother William on a charge of felony grand theft for allegedly stealing a red Maserati sports car from a car dealership in Cleveland, court records show.
The case was dropped. When the Los Angeles Times reported on it in a 1998 story, Issa told the newspaper he had been wrongly implicated because his brother William had an arrest record.
"I was exonerated of all wrongdoing. My brother went on to have a long and sordid career," he told the Times. "I am not my brother. I am not my brother's keeper."
In the third incident, a retired Army sergeant claimed that in 1971 Issa, then an enlisted man, had stolen a Dodge sedan from an Army post near Pittsburgh. The allegation was published in a 1998 story in the San Francisco Examiner. It quoted the retired sergeant as saying he had recovered the car after confronting Issa and threatening him. Issa denied the allegation, calling it reckless, the newspaper reported. No charges were filed.
When his opponent in the 2000 campaign for Congress raised the same auto-theft allegations, Issa denounced them as lies, according to press accounts.
Issa, who was re-elected to Congress last year, has emerged as a major player in state politics by becoming the main financial backer of the drive to recall Davis.
Issa founded Rescue California, a pro-recall organization, and has donated $1 million of his own money through Greene Properties, a real estate firm he owns with his wife.
The funds pay for a statewide network of professionals who aim to gather the needed 900,000 valid signatures to put the recall on the ballot.
Issa has launched his own campaign for governor and is campaigning around the state, while insisting the required number of signatures will be submitted to county registrars by mid-July.
If he makes his goal, the matter could go before the voters later this year.
But Issa said Tuesday he believed the accusations, though in the public record, had surfaced as an attempt to derail his political plans.
"I don't think this was fair game" on the part of his political opponents, he said, adding they were "looking for things other than legitimate policy issues to go after."

Not So Teeny After All: Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., may have just slightly underplayed the importance of an earlier weapons charge. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, what Issa called an "unloaded … teeny pistol" is now reported as a .25-caliber semiautomatic pistol.

Police reports contend Issa was arrested in Adrian, Mich., in 1972 when his yellow Volkswagen was pulled over for going the wrong way on a one-way street. When Issa unlocked the glove compartment to show his registration, the officer caught sight of the box with a sticker that said ".25 cal." on it, holding the semiautomatic pistol with seven bullets inside. Upon further inspection of the glove compartment, the officer discovered a military-style pouch containing a box with 44 bullets in it, a tear gas gun and two rounds of ammunition.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Issa said the gun was an "unloaded, never-fired, in-the-box little teeny pistol." He further went on to deny owning the weapon. However, according to the arresting officer, Don Payne, this was not the case. Payne asserts Issa acknowledged ownership of the gun and stated it was necessary for the protection of his car and himself. Payne recalls, "It was a B.S. story, and (my partner and I) were laughing about it later."

Issa, who declined to be interviewed for the story, "recalled this minor incident from 30 years ago to the best of his memory," said spokesman Jonathan Wilcox.

Darrell Issa: 9/11 Fallout is New York's Problem
by: Lucas O'Connor
Wed Apr 02, 2008 at 11:58:29 AM PDT
I'm not sure if he's just a soulless ass or if he's also actively trying to undermine the entire foundation of post-9/11 conservativism, but Darrell Issa is doing his level best to spit on the rescue workers who got sick at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the twin towers attacks. He's flatly refused to vote for federal funding that would provide medical care to these victims of the attack because, in Issa's mind, it apparently was just a local thing, and not a major one at all:

"It simply was an aircraft, residue of two aircraft, and residue from the materials used to build this building," Issa said during a hearing into whether a new 9/11 victims' compensation fund should be launched.

Which is odd since, as Rep. Anthony Weiner notes, "The gentleman voted for [original 9/11 funding] because we had the national sense that this was not an attack on New York City, this was an attack on our country."

But hey, keep up the despicably cruel hypocrisy Rep. Issa. Feel free to even bring some friends along. Because all it proves is that 9/11 to you is nothing more than a tool to intimidate people into sacrificing Constitutional rights and attempt to justify the $3 trillion Iraq boondoggle. That's when it's a national issue. That's when America is at stake. Only when it serves the political interests of Darrell Issa.

But when the heroes who sacrificed at Ground Zero need help? For Darrell Issa, that's not America's problem and it apparently sure isn't his problem. It's...well...somebody else's problem.

Robert Hamilton is challenging Darrell Issa this year.

GOP Rep. Darrell Issa under fire from everywhere after 9/11 comments


Thursday, April 3rd 2008, 4:00 AM

WASHINGTON - The California congressman who called the Sept. 11 attacks "simply" a plane crash ran for cover Wednesday under a barrage of ridicule from fellow Republicans, first responders and victims' families.

San Diego GOP Rep. Darrell Issa was under siege for suggesting the federal government had already done enough to help New York cope with "a fire" that "simply was an aircraft" hitting the World Trade Center.

"That is a pretty distorted view of things," said Frank Fraone, a Menlo Park, Calif., fire chief who led a 67-man crew at Ground Zero. "Whether they're a couple of planes or a couple of missiles, they still did the same damage."

"New York was attacked by Al Qaeda. It doesn't have to be attacked by Congress," added Long Island Rep. Pete King, a Republican.

"I'm really surprised by Darrell Issa," King added. "It showed such a cavalier dismissal of what happened to New York. It's wrong and inexcusable."

Lorie Van Aucken, who lost her husband, Kenneth, in the attacks, slammed Issa's "cruel and heartless" comments.

"It's really discouraging. People stepped up and did the right thing. They sacrificed themselves and now a lot of people are getting really horrible illnesses," she added.

Under pressure from all sides, the Golden State pol - who got rich selling car alarms after getting busted for car theft as a teen - pulled a partial U-turn. He issued a statement but cowered from the press.

"I continue to support federal assistance for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks," he said.

But he didn't retract his wacked-out rhetoric claiming the feds "just threw" buckets of cash at New York for an attack "that had no dirty bomb in it, it had no chemical munitions in it."

He went on: "I have to ask ... why the firefighters who went there and everybody in the city of New York needs to come to the federal government for the dollars versus this being primarily a state consideration."

In his statement yesterday, Issa insisted he only "asked tough questions about the expenditures" during a hearing Tuesday on an aid bill for sick New Yorkers.

"He realized he stepped in it," said Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan), who was leading the hearing when Issa popped off.

"The sound I'm hearing is him slamming the brakes and going in reverse," crowed Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn-Queens). Issa also belatedly admitted 9/11 was "an attack on America" in his statement.

It shouldn't have been that hard.

He took to the floor of Congress on Sept. 11, 2001, to argue passionately that America - not just New York - had been attacked, but conveniently forgot that during his Tuesday diatribe.

"It seems that with the passage of time, something happened along the way where the scope of the problem and the real extent of the problem has not drifted out to California," fumed Staten Island GOP Rep. Vito Fossella.

Health officials estimate it could cost $1 billion to care properly for the ailments that may emerge in the people who lived through the horror of Sept. 11 or breathed that toxic dust.

New York lawmakers now want Democratic leaders to bring the 9/11 care bill to the floor soon - before more members of Congress start spouting off like Issa.

Allegations of criminal involvement in early years
In 1971, Issa allegedly stole a Dodge sedan from an Army post near Pittsburgh. The allegation was made by a retired Army sergeant, and published in a 1998 newspaper article. Issa denied the allegation. No charges were filed.[13][14]
In 1972, Issa and his brother allegedly stole a red Maserati sports car from a car dealership in Cleveland. He and his brother were indicted for car theft, but the case was dropped.[13][14]
Also in 1972, Issa was convicted in Michigan for possession of an unregistered gun. He received three months probation and paid a $204 fine.[15]
On December 28, 1979, Issa and his brother allegedly faked the theft of Issa's Mercedes Benz sedan. Issa and his brother were charged for felony auto theft, but the case was dropped by prosecutors for lack of evidence. Later, Issa and his brother were charged for misdemeanors, but that case was not pursued by prosecutors. Issa accused his brother of stealing the car, and said that the experience with his brother was the reason he went into the car alarm business.[13][14]
A day after the court order, Issa allegedly carried a cardboard box containing a handgun into the office of an A.C. Custom executive, Jack Frantz, and told Frantz he was fired. In a 1998 newspaper article, Frantz said Issa had invited him to hold the gun and claimed extensive knowledge of guns and explosives from his Army service. In response, Issa said, "Shots were never fired. ... I don't recall having a gun. I really don't. I don't think I ever pulled a gun on anyone in my life."[15]

Blackwater controversy
On February 7, 2007, during a hearing in which four mothers, wives, and daughters of four security guards killed in Iraq testified in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Issa made controversial remarks, implying that the hearing was partisan and insinuating that the women's testimony was written by their attorney. The families have sued North Carolina-based Blackwater USA, the company that employed their relatives as security guards, to gain information about the circumstances surrounding the men’s deaths. [16] Congresswoman Janice Schakowsky of Illinois lambasted Issa saying, "I also wanted to take exception to questions about who wrote this, first of all, because I think clearly the implication was that somehow these wonderful women could not possibly have written that wonderful, heartfelt testimony and that it took a lawyer in order to put it together and I resent that very much."[17]

U.S. Attorney Carol Lam, who successfully prosecuted Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham, was dismissed in December 2006. North County Times has quoted Issa stating that he takes "maybe one-twentieth" of the responsibility for Lam's firing.[18]
In March 2007, Congress opened hearings into the dismissal of eight U.S. Attorneys including Lam, probing whether the Bush Administration had political motives for ousting the federal prosecutors. [19] Issa testified at the March 6, 2007, United States House Committee on the Judiciary hearing[20].
[edit]9/11 victims
In April 2008, Issa said that the federal government "just threw" buckets of cash at New York for the September 11, 2001 attacks "that had no dirty bomb in it, it had no chemical munitions in it." He went on: "I have to ask ... why the firefighters who went there and everybody in the city of New York needs to come to the federal government for the dollars versus this being primarily a state consideration."[21]
In 2008, Issa faces a challenge from the Democrat Robert Hamilton, who has full party backing. (A previous Democratic rival, organic foods spokesman Frank Ford, withdrew from the Democratic primary election because of health problems).

Showdown at Two Bunch

Leslie and I spent the weekend at Two Bunch Palms and had a marvelous time (or at least as great a time as one can have in 115 degree heat.) We had a beautiful villa and generally interacted with really nice people. Food was great, too.

I guess the absolute nadir of the trip was a talk, well truthfully maybe we can call it an argument, oh hell it was a cataclysmic verbal beatdown with a rotund man named McPherson. Mr. McPherson knew everything about everything and would brook no opposing view. We started on Guantanamo, he hoped that it would be open forever, When I mentioned that the federal judge had issued a ruling last week disallowing any further involvement in the case by the lead Pentagon actor, Brig. General Hartman and that the lead prosecutor had resigned because the deck had been illegally stacked against the defendants, he did plead momentary ignorance.

Apparently the man had been energy analyst of some kind, a long time Navy Officer and a very wealthy fellow.

We continued to spar over nuclear waste at Moab, Yucca Mountain, our friend the great Dick Cheney, environmentalists that are bent on destroying america, the need to drill and explore every possible energy source, ethanol and its horrible effect on the central aquifer and on and on and on. Solar and wind power and renewable energy, bad. Fossil Fuels, good. People came and told us to shut up as the spa is supposed to be a quiet zone and I apologized.

Then he brought up Darrel Issa, my congressman, a shining example of the American Paradigm at its apogee. I mentioned that I couldn't stand him and that his views are anathema to everything I stand for, he went ballistic and he vowed to give him a large campaign contribution on the basis of my opposition. Because in his opinion, I want to destroy America. So Darrell, Baby, you owe me one. And in honor of that and to return the favor, I am going to spend a few moments in the next several days showing some of the highlights of Mr. Issa's illustrious career. A greatest hits package as it were.

States of Stupidity, United

I get a lot of stupid e-mails. Just like most people, I guess... Lately the racial and mysoginist tenor of many of these e-mails has gotten much uglier. N*gger monkey president, Hillary is a c*nt, speak English only in this country, etc., etc. Obama is a closet Muslim who has secret plans to obliterate good christian America.

I received an email last week that proposed that only native born citizens be allowed to buy land by the beach. Uh, sorry Governor Schwarznegger (Austria), sorry John McCain (Virgin Islands). I have thought a bit about this recent spate of cybergarbage and offer a couple observations. The hatred is not so much a race based phenomenon but a class based phenomenon. The white people on the lower economic rungs are scared of losing their place on the economic pyramid and rather than focus on the apex, they once again choose to separate themselves from the rung immediately beneath them. Of course, the lucky guys perched on the top need a cheap labor source to do their bidding and work their mega farms. So it is a delicate balance for the politicians.

My sister did her masters thesis on black versus latino race issues at the end of the 1960's. This black/latin schism could have grave effects on the next election if McCain can successfully connect with the hispanic electorate.

Of course the native xenophobia of many conservatives could trump any such wooing. The "English only" movement is the kind of thing that makes me embarrassed to be an American citizen. It is a popular topic on the rabid am radio talk shows that monopolize the bandwidth. I grew up in border cities and am proud of my ability to speak spanish, however inartfully. Hispanic culture has never been a threat to me. My grandfather spoke eight languages well, my father at least three. Travel to Holland or Belgium or practically anywhere in Europe or China and you will find people speaking each other's languages flawlessly. Why do we perceive it as a problem? Our xenophobia has a particular red white and blue flavor that I find very depressing. I hope that we can remember that we are a melting pot and rise above our race and class differences. We are in this thing together. There are a lot of african americans and hispanic american soldiers that are dying for you right now in the middle east.

Leadbelly - Stewball

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Pssst, wanna buy a lid?

Yesterday, a bronze sculpture of a dog was stolen in front of my friend's veterinary hospital. It has been there quite a long time and will be missed. We in Southern California are in the midst of a stolen metal epidemic. Thieves are stealing anything and everything - from lampposts to irrigation systems to electrical wiring. There has been a spate of manhole covers missing in Los Angeles. In my town several nice sculptures have been purloined, cut up and scrapped. A fiend's avian memorial to his late wife was found in three pieces at the metal recycler.

It is not too hard to surmise who the culprits are, seems like a tailor made gig for the tweaker meth generation. I just wonder about the pieces of crap metal recyclers who are aiding, abetting and enabling their habit. They have to be wise to what's going on and to where their chinese destined cargo originated. Or they are not bothering to ask any questions.

On the other hand, I don't actually want to be the guy who calls out an overmedicated meth freak who is capable of hefting a 200 lb. manhole cover on his larceny. Hopefully these hominid termites will die before our entire infrastructure is
eaten up from the inside out.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Waiting For A Miracle

James Taylor -

william devaughn - Diamond In the Back

Mose Allison - Your Mind Is On Vacation

What's So Funny About Peace, Love And Understanding?

Your EPA at work

Photo by Ansel Adams

From the Washington Post:

Clean-Air Rules Protecting Parks Set to Be Eased

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 16, 2008;

The Bush administration is on the verge of implementing new air quality rules that will make it easier to build power plants near national parks and wilderness areas, according to rank-and-file agency scientists and park managers who oppose the plan.

The new regulations, which are likely to be finalized this summer, rewrite a provision of the Clean Air Act that applies to "Class 1 areas," federal lands that currently have the highest level of protection under the law. Opponents predict the changes will worsen visibility at many of the nation's most prized tourist destinations, including Virginia's Shenandoah, Colorado's Mesa Verde and North Dakota's Theodore Roosevelt national parks.

Nearly a year ago, with little fanfare, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed changing the way the government measures air pollution near Class 1 areas on the grounds that the nation needed a more uniform way of regulating emissions near protected areas. The agency closed the comment period in April and has indicated it is not making significant changes to the draft rule, despite objections by EPA staff members.

Jeffrey R. Holmstead, who now heads the environmental strategies group at the law firm Bracewelll & Giuliani, helped initiate the rule change while heading the EPA's air and radiation office. He said agency officials became concerned that the EPA's scientific staff was taking "the most conservative approach" in predicting how much pollution new power plants would produce.

"The question from a policy perspective was: Do you need to have models based on the absolute worst-case conditions that were unlikely to ever occur in the real world?" Holmstead said in an interview Thursday. "This has to do with what [modeling] assumptions you're required to do. This is really a legal issue and a policy issue."

The initiative is the latest in a series of administration efforts going back to 2003 to weaken air quality protections at national parks, including failed moves to prohibit federal land managers from commenting on permits for new pollution sources more than 31 miles away from their areas and to protect air resources only for parks that are big and diverse enough to "represent complete ecosystems."

For 30 years, regulators have measured pollution levels in the parks, over both three-hour and 24-hour increments, to capture the spikes in emissions that occur during periods of peak energy demand. The new rule would average the levels over a year so that spikes in pollution levels would not violate the law.

A slew of National Park Service and EPA officials have challenged the rule change, arguing that it will worsen visibility in already-impaired areas, according to internal documents obtained by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

In one set of comments, the EPA's regional computer modeling staff wrote that the proposal "would allow for significant degradation" of the parks' air quality. An e-mail from National Park Service staff called aspects of the plan "bad public policy" that would "make it much easier to build power plants" near Class 1 areas, which include some Fish and Wildlife Service-protected land.

When the committee chairman, Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), asked the EPA whether the rule would facilitate construction of more power plants near protected areas, Robert J. Meyers, principal deputy assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, replied in an April 24 letter that this was not the intention of the rule but that he could not rule it out.

"We developed this proposal based on the need to clarify how increment consumption must be addressed, and not whether or not it would be easier to build power plants," Meyers wrote. "In the absence of any data or evidence provided by the National Park Service, we are unable to conclusively confirm or deny their suggestion."

Yesterday, the National Parks Conservation Association, an advocacy group, issued a report estimating that the rule would ease the way for the construction of 28 new coal-fired power plants within 186 miles of 10 national parks. In each of the next 50 years, the report concludes, the new plants would emit a total of 122 million tons of carbon dioxide, 79,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, 52,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 4,000 pounds of toxic mercury into the air over and around the Great Smoky Mountains, Zion and eight other national parks.

"It's like if you're pulled over by a cop for going 75 miles per hour in a 55 miles-per-hour zone, and you say, 'If you look at how I've driven all year, I've averaged 55 miles per hour,' " said Mark Wenzler, director of the National Parks Conservation Association's clean-air programs. "It allows you to vastly underestimate the impact of these emissions."

Don Shepherd, an environmental engineer at the Park Service's air resources division in Denver, said of the new rule, "I don't know of anyone at our level, who deals with this day to day, that likes it or thinks it's going to make sense.

"We really want to have clean air at national parks all the time, and not just at average times," Shepherd said in a telephone interview. "All of our national parks have impaired visibility. . . . It would really be a setback in trying to make progress."

While the government has made progress in reducing haze-producing sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution in recent decades, many of the nation's best-known parks still have poor visibility and air quality.

In October, the Park Service published a 10-year analysis of air quality trends that found that sulfate concentrations in precipitation have declined on the East Coast because of the federal acid rain program, but that Western parks have not experienced similar reductions. The concentrations of ozone smog over an eight-hour period are worsening across almost all of the interior West, including "some of the most remote places in the nation," said Vicki Patton, deputy general counsel for the Environmental Defense Fund.

Jim Renfro, an air resources specialist at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, said the park is suffering from a host of pollution problems, including smog and sulfur and nitrogen deposition. Visibility on summer days is 15 miles, rather than the nearly 80 it used to be, and the park now does not meet federal smog standards.

"There are some days when it's unhealthy to breathe at the park, so that's a major concern. People come here to get away, and they can't believe that sometimes they're better off where they came from," Renfro said. "We've got a long way to go."

Power plant emissions are also affecting vegetation and wildlife, making streams in Shenandoah more acidic and stripping nutrients out of the soil that sustains spruce firs at the Great Smoky Mountains' higher elevations. The Great Smokies have the highest levels of acid deposition of any monitored area in North America.

Georgia Murray, a staff scientist at the Appalachian Mountain Club, an outdoor recreation and advocacy group, said emissions will have to drop significantly for ecosystems on the East Coast to improve. "It's the type of pollution that takes years to recover from," she said.

Holmstead, however, said the administration's Clean Air Interstate Rule, implemented in 2005, will ultimately reduce pollution nationwide.

"What you want to do is reduce the total amount that comes out of these power plants," Holmstead said. "There's no Class 1 area in the country that is only affected by a nearby power plant."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Moral Equivalency Contest

I would like to propose a thinking contest with a real prize! Don't know what it is yet... I would like to see the best commentary comparing three events in history and would love your input. The three actions we are collectively pondering are as follows: Israel's occupation of Israel/Palestine since 1948, America's subjugation of the American Indian and the subsequent long march and lastly the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese since the early 1950's (54?). Are the actions of these three governments similar? Are any of the behaviors of these powers justified and if so, which one? I never thought that god paid that much attention to matters of real estate but perhaps I am mistaken. When is aggression justified? Serbia is claiming land at present that they lost in the 14th century. Can we speak to these questions and matters with intellectual honesty and fairness? Does blind nationalism play a helpful role in these kind of decisions? Does the sweat and blood equity expended in efforts to win/reobtain a homeland justify the tragic consequences of the dispossessed? And don't tell me how well the native americans are doing at the casinos... They had the whole enchilada and we have broken every treaty we ever signed with them. I wonder if I can get an answer to these questions? Anyone willing to take a swing?