Monday, April 30, 2007

More on Vitamin D

The previous article on Vitamin D was via a libertarian site ( For some reason, the writers there like to thumb their noses at big medicine/pharma; and a Vitamin D as a miracle preventer of cancer that would cost pennies a day makes them feel happy. However, as the article above mentions, Vitamin D as a dietary supplement comes with risks, and one would still need a doctor to manage those risks.

Vitamin D as a cancer preventer?

Vitamin D casts cancer prevention in new light
(Globe & Mail)

"But perhaps the biggest bombshell about vitamin D's effects is about to go off. In June, U.S. researchers will announce the first direct link between cancer prevention and the sunshine vitamin. Their results are nothing short of astounding.

A four-year clinical trial involving 1,200 women found those taking the vitamin had about a 60-per-cent reduction in cancer incidence, compared with those who didn't take it, a drop so large — twice the impact on cancer attributed to smoking — it almost looks like a typographical error."

(via )

China: melamine routinely added to feed

NYT: Filler in Animal Feed Is Open Secret in China

A long standing business practice in China of mixing melamine in feed to make it register as high protein is discussed.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


Y'day I was feeling rather annoyed. You see, Friday, the bird food had run out. So, Saturday, I went to the pet store, got the standard wild bird food, supplemented it with black sunflower seed (2:1 ratio), took down the bird feeders, gave them a thorough wash, did chores outside waiting for feeders to dry out, and then filled them up. All the while, the various finches, titmice, chickadees, doves, blackbirds, and so on were reproaching me in no uncertain terms, while perched on the roof and various trees and bushes.

Then I fill the feeders, put them back in the normal places, and go in to make lunch. And watch the birds from the kitchen window.

What birds? They'd all gone away!

But then the birds redeemed themselves, when after lunch, a hummingbird visited, the first in my memory. That made my day! Of course, it didn't visit my hummingbird feeder, but who cares.

My next task is to follow as much of the NJ Audubon Society planting advice as possible. And of course, plot on getting a nice long birding lens :).

Why I need a long lens :)

The 70-200 mm is simply not long enough :)


Friday, April 27, 2007

Gray Goose


It's getting better all the time!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Confused Spring

More daffodils (scanned from film, film for some reason developed very grainy. Time to go digital!)



McCain on The Daily Show with John Stewart

The Third Path links to the video and has the transcript.

The fake news anchor and comedian talks about the Iraq war and talks to a senior and powerful politician in exactly the way the Main Stream Media folks are supposed to, but never do.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

581 c

Astronomers have found a roughly-Earth-class planet orbiting the red dwarf star Gliese 581. The planet is estimated to be five times as massive as the earth, and has a temperature between 32 and 104 (no units provided, I hope they mean F, a salubrious planet it would be!).

The significance of this is that it is the first detection of this class of planet outside the solar system, and that it might the first of many, many such discoveries.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Turtle Island Quartet

This note is not because of the Quartet's music (about which I do not know much). Rather, I heard the interview of David Balakrishnan and Mark Summer by NPR's Robert Siegel, and wonder of wonders, Robert Seigel pronounced "Balakrishnan" exactly as you might hear it in Kerala!

The Innocence Project

"Today, the Innocence Project launches "200 Exonerated, Too Many Wrongfully Convicted," a month-long national campaign to create state Innocence Commissions and enact other reforms that can address and prevent wrongful convictions."

On the 200th DNA Exoneration in the U.S.

"These 200 people are a remarkably diverse group - they include a rich man's son in Oklahoma, homeless people, school teachers, day laborers, athletes and military veterans. But mostly they are African-American men without money to hire good lawyers (or, sometimes, any lawyers).

Combined, these 200 people have served about 2,500 years in prison - that's roughly a million nights in prison."


"The 200 DNA exonerations nationwide give us irrefutable scientific proof of the flaws in the criminal justice system. We look at every exoneration to determine what caused the wrongful conviction in the first place, and we see clear patterns. More than 75% of the wrongful convictions involved eyewitness misidentification (often cross-racial misidentification, and often from more than one witness); nearly two-thirds involve forensic science errors (from simple mistakes to outright fraud); 25% were based on false confessions (as the result of coercive interrogations or defendants' limited mental capabilities)."

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Human food contaminated?

It is possible that along with pet food wheat, rice, corn gluten, human food is also contaminated. However the Chinese government is not cooperating with the US Food & Drug Administration investigation.

I think the US Government should impose a blanket ban on Chinese agricultural products until the Chinese overcome their recalcitrance.

Impeach Cheney! Who is Cheney????

Here's something from the NYT that I had meant to previously mention, but couldn't find - it is the results of a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center of 1502 American adults.

"Americans may have more news outlets today than two decades ago, but they still don’t know much more about current events than they did then, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

But here’s one big difference: the survey respondents who seemed to know the most about what’s going on — who were able to identify major public figures, for example — were likely to be viewers of fake news programs like Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report”; those who knew the least watched network morning news programs, Fox News or local television news.

Only 69 percent of people in the latest survey could come up with Dick Cheney when asked to name the vice president; in 1989, 74 percent could name Dan Quayle . Fewer could name the governor of their state (66 percent now compared with 74 percent in 1989) and fewer could name the president of Russia (36 percent now compared with 47 percent before).

In 1989, fully 81 percent of people knew that the United States had a trade deficit; today, only 68 percent knew.

The survey found that education was the best predictor of who would do well on the questions. “However,” it said, “despite the fact that education levels have risen dramatically over the past 20 years, public knowledge has not increased accordingly.” About 27 percent of Americans are college graduates. "

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Corn gluten contaminated too!

Corn gluten from China, used in pet food, is also found to be contaminated with melamine.
(via dkos).

So far we know that this was fed to pets and to hogs (people eat hogs).
The big question is, has contaminated (wheat,rice,corn) gluten entered directly into the human food supply?

VA Tech Prof

My Virginia Tech Professor, RIP

"I remember on the first day of class Professor Loganathan had a photographer come to the class to take a picture of the class from the front of the room. He then had us fill our names into a seating chart. Professor Loganathan must have studied the photograph and seating chart quite a bit because within a short period of time, he called on us by name without any hesitation to think of the name. No other professor that I had cared that much about learning our names. "

Twisting in the breeze

Senator Coleman (Republican, Minnesota) can't decide just how much he supports US Attorney Rachel Paulose (via

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

How the White House plays politics

"Mr. ROCKEFELLER. Madam President, I have to declare myself absolutely a series of things: furious, double-crossed, misled, minimized--in terms of my role as a Senator and as chairman of the Intelligence Committee--shocked by the arrogance of the technique that was used
between the White House and the minority leader to say to Republicans, after weeks in which Vice Chairman Bond and I worked out a compromise on a managers' amendment on which we worked in good faith--I dropped things he did not like, he dropped things I did not like--but it was a genuine effort.

Vice Chairman Bond, whom I respect greatly, stood here praising the managers' amendment. Then the word came down from the White House--not from Vice Chairman Bond but from the White House--through the minority leader, that this vote was to be a test of Republican Party loyalty and that therefore all Republicans were instructed to vote against it. In all of my years in the Senate, and certainly all of my years on the Intelligence Committee, I have never seen something so repugnant, putting politics over national security. That is the bottom line.
Politics was put over national security."

Read the whole story here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Pet food recall expands to rice gluten

Human-grade rice gluten is implicated in the growing pet food recall.

I think that the safest thing to do is to not eat processed foods at all.

BTW, my dog in India was a vegetarian daal-roti (and mangoes) dog, and I was amused to find that that was true of a desi colleague's pet as well.

Is he goofy?

From Russel T. Johnson's The Arkansas Roadside Travelogue


I've written on this subject before, but here it goes again. Every time I point this out, people roll their eyes and act like I'm goofy, but....

These shootings always occur right after a public health crisis, in this case a big pet food recall. The last school shooting, the one at the Amish school, came right after the big ecoli/green onion scare."

Today's NYT has a list of such "notable rampages":

May 18, 1927 Bath, Mich. - a school board official kills his wife and then blows up the school killing 40, including himself.

Aug 1, 1966 Austin, Texas - A gunman kills 16 and injures 31 shooting from the Univ. of Texas tower.

Dec 1, 1997 W. Paducah, Ky. - A 14 year old shoots three classmates and wounds five at a school prayer meeting.

Mar 24, 1998 Jonesboro, Ark. - A 13- and a 11- year old kill four girls and a teacher and injure 11, when they open fire outside a middle school.

May 21, 1998 Springsfield, Ore. - Boy shoots to kill four and wounds dozens.

April 20, 1999, Littleton, Col. - the Columbine massacre - two boys kill 13 and wound dozens and then themselves.

Mar 21, 2005, Red Lake, Minn. - Boy kills grandfather and a companion, five students, a teacher and security guide before killing himself.

Oct 2, 2006, Nickel Mines, Pa. - Man shoots and kills four girls and wounds seven at an Amish school.


I can't find a good way to figure out public health crises.

Did you know?

NYT: Japanese, at Times English, Rules the Blogs

"What is the Internet’s most blogged in language? It depends on the month. English and Japanese have leapfrogged each other in the last couple of years.

In November 2005, it was Japanese by six percentage points; in April 2006, English. And over the last quarter of 2006, Japanese accounted for 37 percent of all postings, compared with 36 percent in English, according to a report by the blog tracking firm Technorati. (The data omitted password-protected blogs and are known to undercount French and Korean for technical reasons.)"

There were other interesting facts in Monday's NYT, but I've misplaced the section. Somehow, finding them in the online NYT is not exactly easy.

More on Rachel Paulose

More on the young Malayali-descent US Attorney Rachel Paulose.

Please note that I'm not entirely convinced that the prayer for "standing in the gap" is legit. Nevertheless, makes for interesting reading. Note that the prayer is about as fundamentalist and you can get. It is not - "God, give our leaders wisdom, etc...", it is "God, our focus on politics to solve our problems is wrong".

Me, I'll continue looking to Parliament, and not to Jehovah for practical solutions to practical problems.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Garden pics



A snapshot of Daily Kos recommended diaries

BREAKING: Gonzales caught in perjury by new e-mail
Email has been found which seems to contradict US Attorney General's prepared written testimony submitted to Congress.

Now Do You Understand?
The Virginia Tech shooting in which more than 30 were killed, which has shocked the nation, is, in scale, a daily occurrence in Iraq.

I Live In Blacksburg, And Instapundit Is Pissing Me Off -UPDATED
A Blacksburg, VA resident (where VA Tech is) is incensed that a conservative commentator is trying to score NRA points over the VA Tech shooting tragedy.

Former Republican Presidential Candidate Turns Blue
A long-time Republican gives up on the GOP and joins the Democrats.

Famous 82-year-old ex-CEO sh*ts a brick over Bushco
Lee Iacocca's blistering criticism of the Bush Administration.

UPDATED: France told CIA about hijacking plans pre-9/11
In the months before September 2001, French intelligence had informed the CIA about al Qaeda plans to hijack an airplane.

A British Mark of Respect and Sorrow
Condolences for the VA Tech shooting.

Shooting at Virginia Tech
News about the VA Tech shooting.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Frank Rich errs

About Don Imus:

"Of course I was aware of many of his obnoxious comments about minority groups, including my own, Jews. Sometimes he aimed invective at me personally. I wasn’t seriously bothered by much of it, even when it was unfunny or made me wince, because I saw him as equally offensive to everyone. The show’s crudest interludes struck me as burlesque. "

Frank Rich falls back on the tired old excuse that since someone is offensive to all, he is not an offender.

It is one thing to tolerate and even defend offensive speech because one believes in the freedom of speech; but it is quite another thing to support it, e.g., by repeatedly appearing on the show. I think Frank Rich is tone-deaf in that regard.

David Kamp (via James Wolcott) puts it well:

"But I’ve always winced at anyone who bills himself (or has his representatives bill him) as an “equal-opportunity offender”–which is the tack that the defenders of Don Imus have taken. Any true aficionado of comedy and comedians knows that “equal-opportunity offender” is apologist code for “hack entertainer trading in dated ethnographic material.” Jackie Mason comes to mind (he actually has a DVD out called Equal Opportunity Offender ), as does Carlos Mencia. A corollary to this, which I learned from my old Spy boss Kurt Andersen , is that anyone who uses a construction along the lines of “I treat people all the same; I don’t care if they’re black, white, purple, or green”–who uses colors that no human being can actually be –is inherently a racist bastard.* "

Wolcott quotes a standup comic to the same effect:

"People say,'Black, white, purple, polka-dot, makes no difference to me, I don't believe in discrimination.' They're so proud of themselves. Like some nice polka-dot family is going to move in next door, come over to borrow things. Hell, anybody can be tolerant of imaginary beings ."

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Weekend Greetings!



While waiting for Wolfowitz to step down from the World Bank, you may like to read these:

Col. Lang writes at turcopolier

IMO, he is a war criminal. Men were hanged after WW2 for "planning and waging aggressive war." What did he (PW) do? IMO, he was at the heart of the conspiracy to persuade GWB to invade Iraq (for whatever set of reasons that you prefer), depose its ruler, destroy its government and substitute another more to our liking. Is this not "planning and waging aggressive war?"

Paul Wolfowitz's "Hours" May be Numbered at World Bank
Steve Clemons, at The Washington Note

"Paul Wolfowitz has now admitted to helping his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, get positions outside the Bank, including "seconding" her to the US State Department that have helped up her salary to levels that clearly violate World Bank rules (i.e. nearly double her salary ). This is the kind of personnel nepotism and corruption that Wolfowitz has stated he is trying to wipe out at the Bank and in the client governments of the Bank."

Steve Clemons also provides information on how to convey your opinion to the decision makers.

Imus Nation

The Rutgers women's basketball team makes the news by reaching the NCAA finals (and not for any of the scandalous reasons so common with sports teams these days); Don Imus makes a seriously derogatory remark about them, and triggers public protest.
Who gets the hatemail?

The Rutgers team! (from Don Imus's fans).Don Imus's wife had to appeal to fans not to send hate mail to the team.

This poisonous audience is sitting out there, and the corporate and political types will find another vehicle to cater to their low tastes.

Meanwhile, read this, with a 1995 criticism of the Imus show:

Late 'Daily News' Columnist Foretold Don Imus Conflict -- In 1995

"If you have never heard the Imus show, listen in. It is a cross between an endless infomercial and a bunch of 8-year-olds telling doo-doo jokes into a tape recorder. It is rescued only by increasingly rare moments of inspired, hilarious brilliance.

Tune in any morning and you'll hear Imus or one of his sidekicks joking about having "lipstick on the dipstick" and much worse. This is nationwide morning radio.

Lieberman worries, on the Senate floor, that the increasing vulgarity of network TV "is lowering the standards of what we accept on television, particularly in what used to be family programing hours."

But he's talking out of both sides of his mouth. This week's moments of supposed humor on Imus, broadcast at an hour when children are rising for school, included a reference to Attorney General Janet Reno in crotchless pantyhose, an interview with Screw Magazine's Al Goldstein and a drunken woman saying "s---" over the air. Teehee."

Friday, April 13, 2007

Human trafficking of Indian guest workers

Human trafficking of Indian guest workers

The Raw Story investigative piece by Linda Beyerstein and Lara Alexandrovna, about the trafficking of Indian guest workers to the Gulf Coast under the H-2B visa program.

On the shredding of sovereignty

Scott Ritter:


"As an American, I said, I appreciated each nation’s embrace of the United States as a friend and ally. However, as a strong believer in the rule of law, I deplored the trend among America’s so-called friends to facilitate a needless confrontation which would severely harm the U.S. in the long run. These nations were hesitant to stand up to the United States even though they knew the course of action planned for Iraq was wrong."


"[In the face of American imperial power] If a nation was incapable of defending its sovereign values and interests, then it should simply acknowledge its status as a colony of the United States, pull down its disgraced national flag and raise the Stars and Stripes."


"This new Democratic leadership has failed egregiously. Not only has the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, been unable to orchestrate any meaningful legislation to bring the war in Iraq to an end, but in mid-March she carelessly greased the tracks for a whole new conflict. By excising language from a defense appropriations bill which would have required President Bush to seek the approval of Congress prior to initiating any military attack on Iran, Pelosi terminated any hope of slowing down the Bush administration’s mad rush to war."


"So if we are to continue to permit AIPAC to operate as an undeclared agent of a foreign nation, and to influence American foreign and national security policymaking at the expense of our Constitution, then we should acknowledge our true status as nothing more than a colony of Israel, pull down the Stars and Stripes and raise the Star of David over our nation’s capitol. While representing the final act of submission, it would also be the first truly honest act that occurred in Washington, D.C., in many years."

Thursday, April 12, 2007


Just a couple of months ago, Senator Christopher Dodd (Democrat from Connecticut) saw it fit to announce his run for the Presidency on the "Imus in the Morning" radio program. Today, CBS fired Don Imus, the host of that program. Imus had said something very nasty - derogatory to women in particular - about the Rutgers women's basketball team on his program, and eventually corporate sponsors started pulling advertising from the show, not wanting to be tarred with Imus's remarks.

The Rutgers team was in the news for the only reason a sports team should be in the news - the team came from nowhere and reached the NCAA finals - the pinnacle of college sports. (They did not win.) This was an inexperienced team consisting of many freshmen. And in what is uncommon in college sports, these young ladies were also, from all accounts, academically sound.

So, why the nasty remarks? It was just Imus being his normal self. The man has a long history of inflammatory statements.

So what is my reaction? Indifference, mostly. The culture hasn't changed. The same corporate honchos who helped elevated Imus are now burying him. The audience that made Imus so influential is still out there. In a decent world, an Imus would at best have a niche market, and everyone could safely ignore his rantings. Dogs bark at street corners, who pays attention? The problem is with the culture that turned Imus into a celebrity in the first place - and that culture is not going away.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Two pieces by Balu

The first two parts of a continuing series:

Translations or Travesty of Traditions?

"In one sense, the title of the piece captures the nature of the tasks facing the contemporary generation, whether in India or in the Diaspora. This generation, unlike many from mine, is confident and self-assured; perhaps, it is proud too about the strength of its culture and traditions. Rightly so. However, personal convictions about the value of our traditions and culture do not automatically guarantee the truth of such convictions. Not only that. It is also the case that the history of India, and that of the entire humankind, requires of us that we are able to say and show what is valuable and what is not in our traditions. This history is the history of colonialism, subservience, and is further weighed down by the scientific, technological, economic and the military weight of the western culture. Today, we need more than a mere practice and a further continuation of our traditions; we need also to examine them honestly and critically in order that we may transmit what we found valuable in them."

...To Follow Our Forefathers - the nature of tradition

While reading this contribution and all the others I hope to write, we need to keep the context in mind. The context is this: many intellectuals, both in India and among the NRIs elsewhere, appear bent on transforming our multiple traditions into a single ‘religion’ called ‘Hinduism’. The problem does not lie in the transformation of variety and diversity into a unity. Rather, it lies in trying to fit our traditions into the straightjacket of ‘religion’. While calling ourselves ‘Hindus’ might be a convenient way of talking, the danger lies in going further and trying to develop ‘doctrines’, ‘theologies’, ‘catechisms’ and ‘Ten Commandments’ so that those around us in the West could recognize us as followers of a religion called ‘Hinduism’. (These reflections are also applicable to ‘Buddhism’, ‘Jainism’, ‘Saivism’ and all such entities.) In the course of my future contributions, I will look at some of the compulsions that force us to manufacture ‘Hinduism as a religion’. In this piece, I want to focus on the nature of traditions. What is a tradition? What differentiates religions from traditions? The second question will remain implicit until the end. By that time, we should have a better understanding of what it means to speak of a tradition.

If the links take forever to load, try going to

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Radio shock jocks

That we know the names of people like Imus, Limbaugh, Coulter, Stern, Savage, etc. - that they are mainstream instead of niche - speaks to an utter lack of taste in the general culture, and of the awesome ability of the free market to find and cater to such.

Gwen Ifill has a thoughtful piece on the latest Imus nastiness.

"...I’m a big girl. I have a platform. I have a voice. I’ve been working in journalism long enough that there is little danger that a radio D.J.’s juvenile slap will define or scar me. Yesterday, he began telling people he never actually called me a cleaning lady. Whatever. This is not about me.

It is about the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. That game had to be the biggest moment of their lives, and the outcome the biggest disappointment. They are not old enough, or established enough, to have built up the sort of carapace many women I know — black women in particular — develop to guard themselves against casual insult.

Why do my journalistic colleagues appear on Mr. Imus’s program? That’s for them to defend, and others to argue about..."

Why do people listen to the Imus show? Self-indulgence?

Monday, April 09, 2007

For-profit healthcare?

Gina Kolata, in the NYT writing about heart disease, wrote (emphasis added by me) -

"Studies reveal, for example, that people have only about an hour to get their arteries open during a heart attack if they are to avoid permanent heart damage. Yet, recent surveys find, fewer than 10 percent get to a hospital that fast, sometimes because they are reluctant to acknowledge what is happening. And most who reach the hospital quickly do not receive the optimal treatment — many American hospitals are not fully equipped to provide it but are reluctant to give up heart patients because they are so profitable."

Free markets and the profit motive are all very well and good, but the problem is that a person (and his or her family) who is in the midst of a medical emergency cannot be an effective free-market player - e.g., is not in a position to make a fully informed decision. The care provider must have sufficient incentive to take care of the patient's best interest, even if it spoils the bottom line.

Childhood misbehavior is criminal

Bob Herbert, in the NYT tells us (you can also read it here)

"Last spring a number of civil rights organizations collaborated on a study of disciplinary practices in Florida schools and concluded that many of them, “like many districts in other states, have turned away from traditional education-based disciplinary methods — such as counseling, after-school detention, or extra homework assignments — and are looking to the legal system to handle even the most minor transgressions.”"

What does that mean? Bob Herbert tells us that too.

A six-year old girl threw a tantrum at her elementary school. When teachers could not quiet her down, they removed her from the class. The little girl kicked and pulled a teacher's hair. When the girl did not calm down, the teachers called the police. The police arrested the girl, handcuffed her (around her biceps, because the handcuffs would slip off her wrists), drove her to the county jail, took a mug shot and fingerprints, and charged her with felonious battery and two misdemeanors - disruption of school and resisting a law officer. (On seeing the police, the little girl had hidden under a table, and resisted being pulled out).

Bob Herbert protested to the police chief:

"“But she was 6,” I said.

The chief’s reply came faster than a speeding bullet: “Do you think this is the first 6-year-old we’ve arrested?”"


Only in this God-And-Common-Sense-Forsaken US of A!!!!!!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Rice vs Cheney

My previous post had Rumsfeld and Bremer contradicting each other.

Now, via we have the following:

"Last year, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talked [Prime Minister of Israel] Olmert into a 48-hour cease-fire during the war with Hezbollah to allow humanitarian relief, but within hours Israeli planes were bombing again, to Rice's surprise and anger. Olmert had received a call, apparently from Cheney's office, telling him to ignore Rice."


Nice crowd we have in the Bush Administration. I also wonder what kind of insult it will take to have Rice resign in protest? Maybe where there is no honor, there is no insult that cannot be swallowed?

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Iraqi police as per Bremer

On October 2, 2003, Lt. General Sanchez gave a congressional delegation headed by Kentucky (R) Senator Mitch McConnell a briefing, where he said that the Coalition had almost 54,000 Iraqi police on duty.

Bremer writes

"After that ... session, I asked Doug Brand, our lanky Yorkshire police officer who was now acting Senior Adviser to the Interior Ministry, to come in with Clay to discuss police training.

"Let's review the situation, Doug. At the end of August, Bernie Kerik said that many of the 35,000 police then on the rolls would have be dropped for incompetence, corruption or previous human rights abuses. Now Sanchez reports that we've got 54,000 police officers on patrol a month later. How the hell could that happen?"

"Apparently General Sanchez is operating under an order from General Abizaid to recruit 30,000 police officers in thirty days," Doug said. "The Army is sweeping up half-educated men off the streets, running them through a three-week training course, arming them, and then calling them 'police'. It's a scandal, pure and simple."

"You know the military, Clay. Can you find me the order they're using to do this hiring?"

"I can get it," Clay said simply.

The military seemed to be proceeding with its plans to replace American combat units with ill-trained Iraqi police. But before I could raise this problem during that afternoon's secure call to Rumsfeld, he asked me to find some positive, newsworthy "interim steps" that we could take to "migrate" political authority to the Iraqis. "We've got to show some forward motion on the political front, Jerry."

That's Feith's Defense policy shop-talking.


"Mr. Secretary, I have to be frank," I said. "You're seeing inflated numbers on police rosters. We shouldn't kid ourselves thinking that the Iraqis are better prepared than they are. We needed a professional police force here, one that's trained to a high standard. That's the whole point of the program in Jordan."

Rumsfeld did not seem convinced. He said that it was better to get the "process started quickly" by having our Army bring in these extra police.

I disagreed. I told him of Doug Brand's description of the Army pulling guys off the street and running them through a short "training" course.

At the end of the call, Rumsfeld seemed to understand, saying he would "push back" on the police in the total-force projection numbers when his office announced them the next week.


We can actually check that:

Department of Defense Briefing, October 16, 2003

Q In the wake of the bombing of the Baghdad Hotel in Iraq, U.S. officials both here and in Baghdad touted the effectiveness of the Iraqi facility's protection force trained by the United States. But subsequent to that our -- CNN's people in Baghdad tell me that, in fact, the people guarding the hotel were contractors from the DynCorp company. Is that the case? And are any of these Iraqi protection forces actually up and protecting anything at this point?



SEC. RUMSFELD: There are site protection Iraqi forces. There are border patrol Iraqi forces. There are some starting in the Army. There are any number of Iraqis in police forces. The total number keeps going up. About a week ago it was 56,000 with another 14 (thousand) in training, up to 70,000 -- 16 in training, 17 in training. And now it's something in excess of that. They have a variety of responsibilities. I would guess that in addition there are contractors hiring Iraqis with -- for the -- to work for the contractor, which would be a different -- still different category.

DeBaathification of Iraq

CIP wants to know who was behind Paul Bremer's (America's Proconsul in Iraq) decisions to fire anyone who was a "senior" Baathist, to abolish the Iraqi Army, and to abolish the Iraqi police force. These decisions led to the complete unravelling of Iraqi society, and the current disastrous situation.

CIP doesn't want to purchase the book and put any dollars into Bremer's piggy bank. Nice fellow that I am, I got the book from the public library. I can't post my answer there, 'cause Haloscan is down (Why anyone chooses to use that abomination of a comment system is another question, it is a Bremer-like decision, IMO.)

Here are some quotes from the book obtained by looking at the index for "Baath Party, elimination of".

"On May 9 [2003], my last day of preparation at the Pentagon, Don Rumsfeld had given me my marching orders in a memo. Among all my other instructions, Rumsfeld's memo emphasized: "The Coalition will actively oppose Saddam Hussein's old enforcers - the Baath Party, the Fedayeen Saddam (the irregular fighters that had harassed our forces on the march to Baghdad), etc. We will make clear that the Coalition will eliminate the remnants of Saddam's regime."

That morning, Under Secretary Douglas Feith had shown me a draft order for the "De-Baathification of Iraqi Society." He had underscored the political importance of the decree. "We've got to show all the Iraqis that we're serious about building a New Iraq. And that means that Saddam's instruments of repression have no role in that new nation." Although there was no mention in the draft of the regular army, I know that Walt Slocombe, the Coalition's senior adviser for Defense and Security Affairs, had begun discussing the army's future with Feith now that it was clear the force had broken ranks and disappeared.

I had scanned the decree. General Franks had already outlawed the Baath Party in his "Freedom Message" of April 16. This more sweeping order was to rid the Iraqi government of the small group of true believers at the top of the party and those who had committed crimes in its name, and to wipe the country clean of the Baath Party's ideology.

"We're thinking of having Jay [Garner] issue the order today," Feith had said.

"Hold on a minute," I said. "I agree it's a very important step, so important that I think it should wait 'til I get there."

Feith agreed to hold off but encouraged me to issue the order as soon as possible after my arrival in Baghdad. He underscored another point in Rumsfeld's memo stating that the decree was to be carried out "...even if implementing it causes administrative inconvenience."


Our concern was only the top four levels of the party membership, which the order officially excluded from public life. These were the Baathist loyalists who, by virtue of their positions of power in the regime, had been active instruments of Saddam's repression. Our intelligence community estimated that they amounted to only about 1 percent of all party members or approximately 20,000 people, overwhelmingly Sunni Arabs.

But I realized that the "administrative inconvenience" Rumsfeld mentioned could prove a lot more than inconvenient. Senior Baathists had formed the leadership of every Iraqi ministry and military organization. By banning them from public employment, we would certainly make running the government more difficult. On the other hand, I was somewhat comforted by the knowledge that apolitical technocrats were usually the people who made organizations work."


"On May 9, 2003, the day before our departure, I sent a memo to Secretary Rumsfeld, copied to Wolfowitz, DOD's policy office and the General Counsel, summarizing these discussions [with Walt Slocombe and Paul Wolfowitz and other "top Pentagon officials"on the Iraqi army] and the tentative conclusion that we should formally dissolve Saddam's army as well as the security and intelligence services as a prelude to establishing Iraq's new security services. I attached to the memo a draft order doing that but told the secretary, "I will show the draft order to CENTCOM this weekend and send back any suggested changes."


"To launch this delicate process, we had first formally to abolish the old regime's intelligence and security services. Doing so would not send home a single soldier or disband a single unit. All that had happened weeks before. But it would formally dismantle the old power structure and signal that the fall of Saddam and the Baathists was permanent.

We carefully coordinated this critical process with the Pentagon. On May 19, I sent a memo to Secretary Rumsfeld detailing our recommendations for the dissolution of the Iraqi Defense Ministry and its "related entities", including Saddam's intelligence, security and propaganda services as well as the army, other military units, and paramilitary forces. The action, I said, would be "a critical step in our effort to destroy the underpinnings of the Saddam regime, to demonstrate to the Iraqi people that we have done so and that neither Saddam nor his gang is coming back."

I also advised Rumsfeld that we proposed to offer severance payments to hundreds of thousands of former soldiers, excluding only the most senior Baathists and intelligence and internal security types, many of whom had in any case fled the country. This meant that we would be paying people who had only weeks before been killing young Americans, but that was a cost that had to be borne. Before sending this message to the Pentagon, Slocombe and I discussed the plans with the appropriate Coalition military commanders and civilians, including McKiernan in Baghdad and CENTCOME forward headquarters in Qatar.

At the Pentagon on May 22, Feith carefully reviewed our draft order, which would formally abolish Saddam's security and intelligence services. He asked us to clarify some of the wording, which we did to his full satisfaction. My press spokesman, Dan Senor, stayed up the entire night coordinating the text of the announcement and press plans with Rumsfeld's chief of staff, Larry Di Rita. Later that day, when Rumsfeld authorized me to proceed, I informed the president of the plan in a video teleconference."


More from the zoo


Re: the performance of the camera - notice the moire effect in the background.




TPM on Rachel Paulose

The case of the US Attorney for Minnesota, Rachel Paulose, becomes more and more interesting. provides the best summary of the news and the issues involved:

1. Link 1
2. Link 2
3. Link 3
4. Link 4

A summary of the summary is that career attorneys find working under Paulose impossible and so are resigning/moving to lesser positions. The Bush Admin. is then attacking these with their usual smear tactics.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Update on Rachel Paulose

Despite US Attorney Rachel Paulose being on the opposite political side from yours truly, I had hoped, as a fellow desi, that she would justify her appointment as the youngest US Attorney ever, etc., by doing a good job.

Unfortunately, apparently not!.

From Father's Garden



Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Some pics from the zoo

Thiruvananthapuram is going through a hot, dry spell, and the only green grass at the zoo is where it is irrigated. It has rained only once in the two weeks I've been here. The animals and the human visitors were all panting in the heat.

On the positive side, the Sony DSC-HDX (where X=2,5,7,etc.), a point-and-shoot camera with an image stabilized optical zoom varying from 12x to 15x, seems to perform about as well as a p&s can. Here are some pics from the zoo. As you might imagine, in all cases, the animals were quite far away from the camera ( a DSC-H2).




Tuesday, April 03, 2007

More on the contaminated wheat

This story in dailykos provides further information on the contaminated wheat gluten. The US Food & Drug Administration [FDA] has issued an import alert notice:
Import Alert.

The author of the story says (and I agree):

"I believe they [the FDA] may know more about the wheat gluten's whereabouts than they are currently admitting to publically. And now let me speculate that indeed this gluten MIGHT be in the human food chain, and the FDA does not want to set off a stampede of paniced consumers."


This dailykos story should also be read.

“There was a sizable amount of melamine. You could see crystals in the wheat gluten,” said the FDA’s top vet. Amazingly, no one noticed. Not at Menu Foods, not at Hills, not at Purina, not at Del Monte — all companies who are busy touting their high quality."


"Under the President’s proposed 2007 budget for FDA, the funding gap between responsibilities and capacity will grow again, to 56%. This harsh budget reality is a real threat to FDA’s ability to effectively oversee nanotechnology. It means among other things that FDA lacks the resources it needs to build its own expertise, to develop the safety-testing protocols and detection methods needed to evaluate new nanotechnology products, to conduct its own risk research, to gather the necessary premarket data required to get ahead of commercialization and to oversee products after they have entered the market."

Monday, April 02, 2007

Say No to McCain!

Senator and Presidential Candidate John McCain is not worthy of anyone's respect. He forfeited my respect permanently when he embraced George Bush even after the smear campaign in the 2000 Presidential campaign, described below, four years later.

McCain cannot be said to stand for anything except raw ambition. As subsequent events 2000-2007 have shown, McCain's "straight talk" is about as straight as a Sierpinski gasket.

Richard H. Davis, The Boston Globe, March 21, 2004

"Having run Senator John McCain's campaign for president, I can recount a textbook example of a smear made against McCain in South Carolina during the 2000 presidential primary. We had just swept into the state from New Hampshire, where we had racked up a shocking, 19-point win over the heavily favored George W. Bush. What followed was a primary campaign that would make history for its negativity.

In South Carolina, Bush Republicans were facing an opponent who was popular for his straight talk and Vietnam war record. They knew that if McCain won in South Carolina, he would likely win the nomination. With few substantive differences between Bush and McCain, the campaign was bound to turn personal. The situation was ripe for a smear.

It didn't take much research to turn up a seemingly innocuous fact about the McCains: John and his wife, Cindy, have an adopted daughter named Bridget. Cindy found Bridget at Mother Theresa's orphanage in Bangladesh, brought her to the United States for medical treatment, and the family ultimately adopted her. Bridget has dark skin.

Anonymous opponents used "push polling" to suggest that McCain's Bangladeshi born daughter was his own, illegitimate black child. In push polling, a voter gets a call, ostensibly from a polling company, asking which candidate the voter supports. In this case, if the "pollster" determined that the person was a McCain supporter, he made statements designed to create doubt about the senator.

Thus, the "pollsters" asked McCain supporters if they would be more or less likely to vote for McCain if they knew he had fathered an illegitimate child who was black. In the conservative, race-conscious South, that's not a minor charge. We had no idea who made the phone calls, who paid for them, or how many calls were made. Effective and anonymous: the perfect smear campaign.

Some aspects of this smear were hardly so subtle. Bob Jones University professor Richard Hand sent an e-mail to "fellow South Carolinians" stating that McCain had "chosen to sire children without marriage." It didn't take long for mainstream media to carry the charge. CNN interviewed Hand and put him on the spot: "Professor, you say that this man had children out of wedlock. He did not have children out of wedlock." Hand replied, "Wait a minute, that's a universal negative. Can you prove that there aren't any?"


The story of this smear was told during the 2000 primary season itself, and yet the nation let G.W. Bush be elected/selected President. All I can say is - serves the nation right!

Not just pets!

In North America, more than 60 million cans of pet food of over 70 brands have been recalled by the manufacturers, because they contain contaminated wheat gluten. The contaminant can cause kidney failure and death in cats and dogs.

Now it turns out it is not just the "feed grade" wheat that is contaminated. "Food grade" wheat is also contaminated.

E.g., read this.

"Del Monte Foods has confirmed that the melamine-tainted wheat gluten used in several of its recalled pet food products was supplied as a "food grade" additive, raising the likelihood that contaminated wheat gluten might have entered the human food supply."
"The FDA announced today that it has traced the contaminated wheat gluten to a single processor, Xuzhou Anying Biological Technology of Peixian, China, but has not released the name of the U.S. distributor who supplied the product to Del Monte, Menu Foods, Nestle Purina, and Hills Nutritional. In all, more than 70 brands and over 60 million cans and pouches of dog and cat food are now part of this massive recall, as well as at least one brand of dry cat food."
"Public statements have indicated that the contaminated gluten was distributed by a single U.S. company, but since the FDA refuses to name the supplier, it is not yet known if this company also supplies human food manufacturers. It is also not yet known if Xuzhou Anying sells direct to food manufacturers in the U.S. or abroad."

Among other mysteries is why is the US buying food-grade wheat from China?

Needless to say, the absence of any security in the quality of the food supply is alarming. I can only hope that all the companies that sold the contaminated product suffer such heavy financial losses that testing of food and detection of problems before the fact becomes the market solution.

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Via A.M. :

This Aspen Has Turned, by Nancy Greggs

It begins thusly:

This is my farewell post on DU. I have finally seen the light, and have no choice but to throw my lot in with the RepubliCons. And I do mean no choice; it literally just happened on its own.

It started when I heard President Bush’s Saturday radio address, and finally realized what an articulate statesman he is. Suddenly putting food on my family started to make sense, along with the War on Terror, the need for wire-tapping US citizens, and the necessity of doing away with quaint concepts like freedom in the pursuit of spreading democracy.

My transformation into a BushBot escalated quickly – a kind of surge, if you will. Once I started speaking in talking points, I knew there was no turning back. I realized that facts were the enemy, and I had to fight ‘em over there as well as over here. So I bought a gas-guzzler, slapped a W sticker on the bumper, burned my copy of An Inconvenient Truth, and set out to claim my rightful place in the world as an ill-informed idiot. It was time to adapt to win."


Enlightenment is possible in this life itself! By doing away with the necessity of thought, life becomes infinitely simpler, too. Pure bliss!