The Tao of Politics

One of my main concerns is: how can I make a difference? There are thousands of political blogs out there. It’s easy to get lost in that ocean. So I may blog about politics on occasion, or I may blog about health issues, depending on where my interests lead me, and where I feel I can contribute something of significance.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The State of the Pain
What is the State of the Union? What Union? Union means to me that we are united on some things, and not just our name, the “United States.” We have a president who said he was a uniter, not a divider, and yet everywhere I look all I see are divisions. And most of the divisions I see in this country were caused by our uniter president. We’re divided on a war that should have never happened. We’re divided on the direction our country is taking and should take. How are we united?

We are united in our love of freedom and our hatred of tyranny, and yet some might say that our president is weakening the fabric that holds our nation together. And we have three more years of this to look forward to.

So, under this president, I prefer to ask, what is the State of the Pain? The State of the Pain is bad and getting worse. But there is an end in sight: 2009.

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PFOA followup
I’m not sure this was clear to me when I mentioned the chemical PFOA on January 29, but according to this article, an independent scientific review panel now wants to label PFOA a “likely” carcinogen.

Whoa, that’s pretty serious. Here’s what I think that means: the chemical PFOA has been introduced into the environment by the huge chemical companies; the chemical is in the blood of nearly everyone on earth; the chemical is a “likely” carcinogen; therefore, the huge chemical companies might be contributing to everyone on earth’s getting cancer. Boy, talk about class action lawsuits, I can’t wait until they start. And talk about epidemics, the world has never seen an epidemic like one that may result from all the carcinogens being pumped into the environment by the major chemical companies.

You know, you live your life, trying to do the best you can to take care of your health, and then you find out that all your efforts might not matter because someone is releasing massive amounts of carcinogens into the environment. As I said the other day, very discouraging.

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Four books in one volume, including, for the first time in print, The Tao of America. Click here for more information about this volume, including excerpts.

Also check here for The Tao of Love.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Truth Matters
I was wondering recently, if truth matters on Oprah, why doesn’t it matter in the White House? Then I was reading over the manuscript of my new book, The Tao of Politics Anthology, and I ran across this passage: “In the exercise of Government, truth is of the utmost importance. But not so in the exercise of Politics.”

That’s what is wrong today in the White House: the Bush administration is great at politics, and not so great at government. In politics you don’t have to tell the truth, or be ethical, or play fair. All you have to do is win. George W. Bush is great at winning elections. I would argue, as I said, that he is not so great at governing. Of course, history will be the final judge.

It’s too bad that when we elect a president we have to elect a politician instead of a college professor or someone like that. Politicians are often not the nicest kinds of people.

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Four books in one volume, including, for the first time in print, The Tao of America. Click here for more information about this volume, including excerpts.

Also check here for The Tao of Love.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Bob Woodruff
I am extremely unhappy about the injuries sustained by Bob Woodruff of ABC News, and his cameraman Doug Vogt. Let us all pray that they both get better soon, and that we can all get the hell out Iraq as soon as possible. All the oil in the world is not worth the life or well-being of a person like Bob Woodruff.

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PFOA, It's everywhere
A couple of years ago I went looking to find a new pizza pan to buy. Do you know how hard it is to find a pizza pan that is not coated with Teflon or some other nonstick material? I spent months looking for just a plain pizza pan, without a nonstick surface. Eventually I found one, but it wasn’t easy.

Now the EPA has asked for a ban on PFOA, a chemical used in the manufacture of Teflon, which is showing up in everybody’s blood stream, never goes away, and is potentially hazardous. Anyway, read this highly informative article; and follow all its links. They are also informative. And here is a website that has downloadable letters that you can send to major fast food corporations asking them to stop using materials that contain PFOA (such as the boxes they keep French fries in).

God, you know, you eat something as presumably innocent as a goddamn French fry, saturated fat aside, and it contains some chemical you’ve never heard of. This is a scary situation. I am fairly conscientious about trying to eat a healthy diet. But in spite of all my efforts, something like PFOA, which is apparently ubiquitous in the environment, could spell my doom. Very discouraging.

Cause and Effect
This article speculates that obesity may be caused by adenoviruses. It says that “obesity has doubled in adults in the United States in the past 30 years and has tripled in children.” It goes on to say that, in effect, this increase is difficult to explain by increased food intake. I would like to ask, is it easier to explain by some rampant virus? Has everyone forgotten Fast Food Nation? Food consumption in this country is radically different now than it was thirty years ago. All portions, especially those of soft drinks, have increased substantially. What used to be a large fountain soft drink is now probably a small. So intake of calories has measurably increased. The food industry spends billions of dollars each year promoting its products, the consumers consume them, and they gain weight. Surprise!

OK, maybe some viruses are causing some people to gain weight, but you can’t blame the obesity epidemic on a virus. If you do, you’re closing your eyes and ears to what’s really going on out there, with people selling, buying, and eating more and more food. And gaining more and more weight.

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Four books in one volume, including, for the first time in print, The Tao of America. Click here for more information about this volume, including excerpts.

Also check here for The Tao of Love.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Risk Assessment
I’m not familiar with the Columbia (Missouri) Daily Tribune, but this letter to the editor, taken from their pages, has some strong words for and about President Bush. I admire the writer’s candidness. She tells it as she sees it. More of us should follow her example.

Stand up and be counted
I’m glad that Hillary came out for an Alito filibuster. If the country is moving in the wrong direction now, as most Americans believe, Alito would intensify that move, maybe even set us off on another wrong track altogether. A filibuster may not work, but this last-minute attempt to derail the confirmation will accomplish one thing. It will get everyone on the record in stating where they stand on this issue of national importance. Too many of these guys are on the record as being on the wrong side of the Iraq War vote. It would not be good, ultimately, for them to be on the wrong side of this vote as well.

It’s the environment?
Bill Clinton now says that “climate change is the most pressing threat to civilization.” Isn’t that what Al Gore said, like a couple of months ago? BTW, Al Gore is coming out with another book on the environment, “An Inconvenient Truth.” I think he’s getting ready to run for president in 2008. I think Al Gore is finally finding his voice, something that he needed to do in 2000 but didn’t or couldn’t, and I think this time he will win.

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Four books in one volume, including, for the first time in print, The Tao of America. Click here for more information about this volume, including excerpts.

Also check here for The Tao of Love.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Worst than Buchanan?
First of all, this column from Molly Ivins should read “Worse” not “Worst.” But grammar and spelling aside, read it if you’re mad at Bush and want to get madder.

Second Term Failure
There are more poll numbers out for Bush, and they don’t look good for him. What interests me is that they keep finding new questions to ask people, and new ways to show what a bad president we have.

Enough Already
Confirming Samuel Alito is going to be painful. No way around it. So let’s just hurry and get it over with, like pulling a bandage off, in one quick motion. No need to prolong the pain, although, maybe when he takes his seat on the Supreme Court is when the pain really starts? The farther we get into George W. Bush’s presidency, the more I become a nihilist.

So let’s see, George W. Bush says that democratic countries are peaceful countries. So the first chance the Palestinians get to vote in a democratic election they elect a terrorist organization? So much for that idea. You know, our president likes to repeat phrases of conventional wisdom over and over: they hate us for our freedom, we’ll stand up as they stand down, etc, etc, etc, ad nauseam. We need to challenge those assumptions at every turn. They are often flawed reasoning, although they sound good, and many Americans believe them. Democratic countries often are not peaceful. (Need I remind anyone that we are the ones who started the war in Iraq?)

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Bird Flu Notes
For those who are trying to design a vaccine, or even an antiviral to combat bird flu, it seems to me that it would be helpful if they understood the genetic makeup of theH5N1 virus, and how it interacts with the human body’s defense mechanisms. Well, now they do. This article explains how one hospital has done genetic analysis on various strains of bird flu, and has identified the protein that might make H5N1 so dangerous. This is important information to have, no?

The World Economic Forum released a report which said that the global threat from bird flu was what business leaders worried about most. Some experts even compared bird flu to the Black Death of the 14th century.


Four books in one volume, including, for the first time in print, The Tao of America. Click here for more information about this volume, including excerpts.

Also check here for The Tao of Love.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Health Notes
Researchers say that one in five cancers could be caused by viruses. That’s a pleasant thought. With so many viruses in the world it seems we don’t have a chance. We should start a war on viruses. Think about the lives we could save if there were no viruses out there to kill us.

Fish oil: reduces heart disease, not cancer.

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The Right is Wrong
So, let’s see, the GOP is supposed to keep us safe, right? Well, what about Katrina? They had ample warning of what was coming, and yet did nothing. Don’t forget that. Also, read this article and watch the video. Now it seems that the White House is impeding the investigation into its response to Katrina.

You know, some people will believe anything. Just witness the fact that George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004. Now they want us to believe they will keep us safe. Give me a break. These guys shouldn’t be voted out of office, they should be run out of office, the way they handled Katrina, the way they have run up deficits, the way they have given tax cuts to people who don’t need them, and the way they have used the war in Iraq for political purposes. I’m getting tired of this, and the American people are getting tired of it too. We won’t be fooled in 2006, or in 2008. It is time for a change, and the change is now. Harry Reid said it pretty well in his speech before the Center for American Progress. Bush has bankrupted “our country and (placed) an enormous tax on our children and grandchildren, simply so he can hand out tax breaks to special interests and the wealthy." And we also need a president who does what he says he’ll do. That president is certainly not George W. Bush, and probably not a Republican.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Four books in one volume, including, for the first time in print, The Tao of America. Click here for more information about this volume, including excerpts.
The Tao of Politics Anthology

The Tao of Politics Anthology is a compilation of four books in one volume. Three of the books – The Tao of George W. Bush, The Tao of Red States and Blue States, and The Tao of Politics – were published previously. The Tao of America is published here for the first time. Each book has its own explanatory notes, so I refer you to those (below) for more information about the books individually.

Collectively there is more than a little variety to be found, from the humor in The Tao of George W. Bush, to the analysis in The Tao of Red States and Blue States, the philosophy in The Tao of Politics, and finally the patriotism in The Tao of America. There is therefore ample opportunity for the reader to find something herein to which he can relate, either positively or negatively.

I write a daily online blog, The Tao of Politics ( In many ways this book serves as the theoretical underpinning of my blog. You don’t have to read this book to understand the blog, but reading this book will certainly give you a lot to think about, and a lot to talk about as well.

The Tao of George W. Bush


This is not a book of quotations by George W. Bush. Rather, it is intended to illustrate and parody how the author imagines the President might react to or interpret the Tao Te Ching if he were to read it. This is therefore a work of the imagination. It is not just a book about George W. Bush, however. It is also an authentic, somewhat tongue-in-cheek reading of the Tao Te Ching. The reader would benefit (i.e. gain more understanding) by becoming better acquainted with the ideas of both George W. Bush and the Tao Te Ching.

During the course of writing this work I consulted the 1891 James Legge translation of the Tao Te Ching. It is a rather antiquated translation, and my work owes much of its style to it. The italicized passages in this book were taken directly from the Tao Te Ching, and from Mr. Legge’s commentary. The numbering scheme corresponds to the numbered sections of the Tao Te Ching. The reader can refer to the original in order to better understand the context of the excerpts.

I tried not to be too disrespectful to George W. Bush or to the Tao Te Ching.


President George W. Bush attended the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in October of 2003. In preparation for that trip he wanted to try and understand the Oriental mind. He therefore took a copy of the Tao Te Ching on vacation with him in August. He thought reading that book would help. Well, a day turned into a week, and a week turned into a month. When his vacation was finally over, he had finished reading and making notes on the Tao Te Ching. These notes were collected by Secretary of State Powell, and they form the text of the book before you now, unedited and direct from the pencil of the President.


Reading the Tao Te Ching and making comments on its verses was challenging and tedious for the President at best, touch and go at worst. He was only able to persevere with a steady diet of peanut butter sandwiches and milk, not to mention various forays onto the campaign trail to raise money for his re-election. When his vacation was over and he had finished reading the Tao Te Ching, with a little help, no doubt, from Dr. Rice and others, he had less respect for the Oriental mind than he had to begin with, and he felt better justified in going out and telling the Pacific Rim countries what to do.

The Tao of Red States and Blue States

Everyone who watched TV or read the news during the last two Presidential elections has heard of Red States and Blue States. Basically the Red States were the ones won by George W. Bush, and the Blue States were those won by his opponents – Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.

Thinking about Red States and Blue States reminded me of Chinese Philosophy. As the reader may know, yin/yang is a concept that deals with opposites such as dark/light, female/male, night/day, etc. The Red States and Blue States have qualities that are antithetical to each other too. In this book we will examine some of those qualities, particularly as they relate to the teachings of the Tao Te Ching, a 2000 year-old Chinese manuscript of wisdom and advice.
The Tao of Red States and Blue States is not intended to be a scholarly work. It is more a work of art. It is also an opinion piece of sorts. In writing this book I relied on the knowledge and beliefs I acquired while following the news for the past several years. I also relied on my imagination and on a detailed reading of the Tao Te Ching.

The Tao of Red States and Blue States is not a theory of politics. It is a theory of, or philosophy of a media image, of dynamics between the two major political parties, and of election results, all from a Taoist perspective. The focus, therefore, is quite specific.

I hope this book will stimulate the reader to think and to do research for himself. He may find it interesting to read the Tao Te Ching in conjunction with reading this text. Each passage in this book is essentially based on a passage in the Tao Te Ching. I have therefore numbered my passages to correspond with their numbered counterparts in the Tao Te Ching. The reader also may find it interesting to read the Tao Te Ching independently. I consulted the 1891 James Legge translation while writing this book, but there are many other translations available that are more modern and readable. Those of Stephen Mitchell and Ursula K. Le Guin come readily to mind.

Finally, I tried to be impartial while writing this book. I hope I succeeded.

Here are two websites that the reader might find interesting and edifying:

There may be other references via Google or other search engines. One good thing about the internet and other research tools is that you never know what you’ll find until you start looking.

The Tao of Politics

The Tao of Politics was conceived while I was writing The Tao of Red States and Blue States. I realized then that I wanted to do a closer examination of political theory, but not at all from a traditionally Western point of view. There is enough of that out there on the airwaves and in the Blogosphere. Politics in this country and in this century seems so polarized, much like the yin/yang of Chinese Philosophy, that I decided there must be more moderate ways to approach it. It never hurts to look at subjects from different, non-traditional points of view. When we do we often arrive at different understandings, different conclusions. That is what The Tao of Politics seeks to accomplish.

I hope this book will stimulate the reader to think and to do research for himself. He may find it interesting to read the Tao Te Ching, a 2000 year-old Chinese manuscript of wisdom and advice, in conjunction with reading this text. Each passage in this book is essentially based on a passage in the Tao Te Ching. I have therefore numbered my passages to correspond with their numbered counterparts in the Tao Te Ching. The reader also may find it interesting to read the Tao Te Ching independently. I consulted the 1891 James Legge translation while writing this book, but there are many other translations available that are more modern and readable. Those of Stephen Mitchell and Ursula K. Le Guin come readily to mind.

This book is not the last word on the subject of politics. There is a lot more that could have been written, and a lot more waiting to be written. With that in mind I have started a new political blog:, where we will continue to seek alternative ways of looking at and talking about issues of current interest. Join us there when you get tired of politics or media coverage as usual.

The Tao of America

Much has been written about America. I did not consult any of those other works while writing The Tao of America. Instead, I relied, for my inspiration, on the 1891 James Legge translation of the Tao Te Ching. That shouldn’t seem too odd. If one is going to write “The Tao” of anything, he should consult Lao Tzu’s book, which I did. Consequently I owe most of my debt to him, to my imagination, and to my many years of being an American.

The reader may find it strange to use a book of Eastern philosophy to help in discussing something as quintessentially Western as America. The Tao Te Ching is more universal than one might realize. What it lacks in universality can be made up for by interpreting some passages more broadly, and by ignoring certain passages altogether.

When I began, I wanted to think and write about America, land that I love. I could have used any number of models to guide me. I chose to use the Tao Te Ching because I wanted to explore the subject in a different way than had ever been explored before. As a result, I think I have something different here: a rather unconventional book about America. I hope it stimulates people to think about, and reflect on, what it means to be an American. I don’t want people to take sides politically as a result of reading this book. The Tao of America is not Red or Blue. It is Red, White, and Blue.

NB: When you are finished reading this book, or really anytime that the spirit moves you, join me online at The Tao of Politics ( where we take a somewhat more partisan approach to the discussion of issues important to America.

There you have The Tao of America. Much more could have been said. In fact, the number of things that could be said about America is only limited by the number of Americans you ask. They all have opinions. This book expresses some of mine. The reader can agree with me, disagree, or add to what I have said. But one point upon which there can be no disagreement: it’s great to be an American.


And there you have The Tao of Politics Anthology. I hope reading it has stimulated your thinking, and I hope that as a result you will find more opportunities to express your opinions as I have expressed mine. Write letters to newspaper editors. Join me at The Tao of Politics ( for more reading and discussing. Visit other blogs, or start your own blog. Everyone has a right, even a duty, I think, to express his or her own opinions. The world will be a better place if we do.
H5N1 Cooperation
If we’re still talking about China not fully cooperating in sharing bird flu samples, well that creates problems.

But apparently China is not the only Asian country that is not fully cooperating. Other countries in the region have reported H5N1 cases as much as two months after the event. Maybe that stems from logistical problems, but that kind of reporting makes it hard to contain a pandemic if one occurs.

Everyone, in the West at least, stresses that cooperation among countries is necessary if we are to be successful against bird flu. Everyone in the East would do well to heed these admonitions and streamline their reporting procedures. After all, they are in the direct line of fire if bird flu gets out of hand. The East has the most to gain from timely reporting.

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Political Notes
So, Karl Rove wants the Republicans to make the war on terror a central focus of the 2006 elections? In other words he wants to change the subject away from all the problems besieging his party at the present time, and he wants to continue hiding behind the terrorists, as they have done since 9/11. Who knows, maybe it will work. Maybe the American people are just dumb enough to keep the Republican majorities in Congress. After all, they did re-elect George W. Bush just 14 months ago.

According to this story, the administration knew well beforehand that the levees in New Orleans were likely to be breached. And they knew the economic consequences if such a breach occurred. I just keeps getting worse and worse, doesn’t it?

Seven US soldiers have been killed in Iraq. Dreadful.

There was a new case of mad cow disease found in Canada. See what a mess the scientists are making of the world?

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Vectors or Victims?
Readers of this blog may remember the ongoing discussion of how bird flu is spread, through migrating birds, or through the poultry trade. I had pretty much decided that migrating birds were the culprit. Now these articles come along, one from Reuters, one from BBC, both authoritative sources, and they bring the whole notion of migrating birds into question again, at least as the major carrier of H5N1. And the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says that the poultry trade is the most likely vector for bird flu. I guess I must reconsider all this from scratch, as must the world, if we are to be effective in fighting the spread of bird flu.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Bird Flu Notes
I must admit that I now have plans to buy face masks, to help guard against getting sick from things like flu. Apparently a lot of people feel the same way. And a lot of these products are being marketed as “Bird Flu Masks.” Great.

As much as I don’t like about China, at least they don’t announce every person who enters the hospital as a suspected case of bird flu. It seems to me that they wait until the virus is confirmed to make an announcement. That seems better to me.

World Health Organization says it is not exaggerating the threat of a pandemic. I personally didn’t think they were. Anyway, check this article from Reuters, with video.

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Political Notes
This opinion piece argues that George W. Bush has betrayed the values of his own party. Uh, sorry but those are the values of the Republican Party.

This opinion piece says that the tax cuts are working, and it blames the growing deficit on, of all people, Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Right. With the Republicans in charge of all aspects of government, let’s blame the Democrats for spending so much money.

Has Joseph Lieberman caught bird flu or something? He’s sounding more and more hawkish. Squawk!

Apparently the Show Me State has seen enough for the time being. Support for Bush is dropping, with a job approval rating of only 44%. Where were all those smart, perceptive people during the 2004 presidential election?

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Big oops!
Beef shipments to Japan, which just recently resumed, have been halted after a supplier sent beef backbones, which apparently are not allowed under the export agreement. See how we’re always screwing things up?

Rove sighting
Karl Rove is holding forth on what’s wrong with the Democrats again. That’s a good idea. I think Karl Rove should be spokesman for the Republican Party. I think he should make more public appearances, as often as possible. Maybe he can lead the Republicans to victory again in 2006. Not! Maybe we can get Scooter Libby to make some appearances on behalf of the GOP too.

Filibuster? Really?
Daily Kos is reporting that a filibuster of Alito might be possible. Cool. There is much about Alito that troubles me, his support of increased executive power and siding with corporations against the little guy, to name a few. Stay tuned next week for developments.

New Diet Pill
They’ve come up with a pill that can block the body’s absorption of fat. Of course it’s fraught with controversy and side effects (involuntary leakage? Ewwww!) Question: why not just stop eating fat?

Fighting Cancer?
Chalk up another one for turmeric.

How to keep from aging?
We’ve all heard that following a calorie-restricted diet can slow ageing. Here is a study supporting that contention.

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Temper, temper
Look for the world to get a lot more testy. Turkey is accusing its neighbors of not fully reporting their incidence of bird flu. Syria, which borders Turkey, says they’re not hiding anything. That area of the world is a real jumble anyway. Turkey borders about seven countries, and has recently had a major outbreak of bird flu in which its people, of course, were dying. It is understandable that they might be a little on edge, and they might wonder if everyone is fully cooperating in combating this menace.

The same is probably true of other countries. It has long been conjectured that China is not fully reporting its outbreaks. They are also bordered by a lot of different countries. A lot of birds fly in and out of there, possibly carrying disease far and wide. If China is not fully cooperating, one might imagine its neighbors getting a little angry because of that. I’m a little ticked off at them myself, just on general principles, as anyone who has read this blog regularly knows.

At a time when the world faces the potential of a pandemic, everybody needs to pull together. If they don’t, that can have real consequences in the real world. Those consequences can lead to death and chaos. If that happens, particularly through negligence, a lot of people might be really mad, and rightly so.

Bird flu symptoms
Scientists did a study of cats infected with H5N1. They discovered how the virus attacks the body, and what organs are affected. Just for the record, this is not your regular flu, with a cough and nasal congestion. Pretty gruesome.

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Shooting themselves in the foot
The Democratic Party has got to stop doing things that make it necessary to apologize to the GOP. We have got to get our act together.

France talks tough
So, France is threatening terrorists with nuclear retaliation? How many people believe that is a serious threat?

Protecting the Environment?
Six former EPA heads, five Republican and one Democratic, give Bush 41 and 43 low marks on the environment. Duh.

Filibuster Alito?
Brad thinks so. I certainly have misgivings about Alito being confirmed. It may be a coincidence that this wiretap issue is coming to a head at the same time that Alito is being appointed by Bush to the Supreme Court, but also it may not. Alito is just another vote for Bush. And if Bush is taking the country in the wrong direction, as Brad points out, he only gets to do that for eight years. Supreme Court justices get to take the country in the wrong direction for their entire lives. Sure, let’s filibuster Alito.

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Brain tumors from cellphones?
Does handedness really correlate to the side of the head people hold their cellphones? I'm right handed, but I hold my cellphone with my left hand. It makes sense to me. That leaves my right hand free to write things if I need to. But if you believe this study, most of the patients lied when reporting which side of the head they held their phones. So, let me get this straight: if you don’t believe the patients, then there is no link between brain tumors and cellphones; if you do believe the patients, then there is a link. Sorry, but this study doesn’t make me feel any better.

Dumb or Smart?
Forty-seven percent of people surveyed said they had little or no control over their risk of developing cancer. This flies in the face of the fact that some cancers like those of the lung, prostate, breast, and colon are preventable, at least to a degree. On the other hand, with all the poisons out there in the environment, it is no wonder that people might feel they had no control. When you read the obituaries, you see a lot of young people dying, and a lot of them are dying of cancers. And there’s not just one kind of cancer, either. There are lots of different kinds. I don’t think man, generally, is cancer-prone. So he must be getting sick from something. And I don’t think it is from Nature.

Bird flu in decline?
There was some speculation that bird flu was tapering off in Turkey. But don’t you think we may have to revise that notion since five new cases of H5N1 have been reported there?

Stealth Virus?
A British scientist suggests that we might be focusing on the wrong virus, and speculates that a virus from the H2 family, not the H5 family, might ultimately result in a pandemic. That may be true, but H5N1 is doing a lot of infecting and killing now. Until an H2 virus surfaces as a real, not a potential, threat, I think I’ll stick with H5N1.

Safe from bird flu?
I have always considered that the Atlantic Ocean would keep us safe from the bird flu which seems to be moving westward from Asia, through Turkey, and into Europe on its way probably to Great Britain. I forgot about Alaska. A lot of birds migrate from Asia to Alaska. So apparently we are not as safe as I thought.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Don’t rely just on flu drugs
This article discusses various strategies for dealing with both normal flu and also bird flu, including the effectiveness of antivirals compared to other measures. Basically it just reinforces my contention that we need better antivirals, and fast. Isn’t it interesting that with the full machinery of our pharmaceutical industry, we still don’t have effective tools to deal with influenza? There may be monetary explanations for that fact. I don’t like to be so cynical, but what other reasons are there?

Coming clean
This article says that bird flu is “more widespread than governments admit.” Think middle east and Africa.

Watch what you eat
Diet can make you healthy, and it can make you unhealthy. Here is the story of a 20 year old boy who had such a poor diet that he died.

Where the germs are
A pandemic could start in hospitals.

Laura Bush should know a ridiculous statement when she hears one. Her husband has certainly made enough of them over the years.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Hillary is Right?
The National Journal ranked Hillary Clinton one of the most conservative senators on foreign policy? Well, I don’t care how conservative she gets, I just don’t see her being elected president, with one caveat: as I’ve said before, she must win at least one red state. Florida seems the one most capable of going blue. Of course, the way Louisiana has been neglected recently you would think it might be up for grabs in 2008. Only problem is, I don’t think it's up for grabs for Hillary. She is a very polarizing figure. Al Gore might, and probably would, win the competitive red states, but don’t look for Hillary to win them.

Is John McCain a Republican?
John McCain has been saying some of the things that the Democrats have been saying: the budget is out of control and there are big problems with lobbying abuses. Boy, McCain is sounding more and more like a Democrat. If he runs in 2008, he could be a tough candidate.

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New Antiviral?
BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc have been given permission to fast-track its new flu drug peramivir. The drug may be very effective against most kinds of flu, including H5N1. Hooray. As I’ve said many times, we need more and better effective antivirals. I don’t think you can prevent everyone from getting sick, but if you have good antivirals you can treat the ones who do.

Bird Flu Overview
Here is an historical summary of bird flu outbreaks, deaths, and preventive measures, as well as plans to deal with H5N1 if it strikes, listed country by country, from Guardian Unlimited. For those interested in where the disease has been, where it is now, and where it is not, this article is succinct, readable, and informative.

It’s not about politics?
China refuses to allow Taiwan to join the International Bird Flu Conference. What can you say about that? What adjective come readily to mind? Stupid? Ridiculous? Yep.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Al Gore
I must say that I really liked Al Gore’s speech yesterday. Some people say that the Democrats don’t seem to have an agenda. Al Gore enunciated some concerns that could serve as an agenda, and not just political concerns, but also American concerns. When he spoke about the fact that the Congress has become subservient to the executive branch, I think he hit the nail on the head. Congress needs to take its place as a co-equal branch of government, to be sure. Will it do that? Not with the bunch that’s in there now. It is as if Congress has sold its soul in order to gain money and power. You have some members who seem to have genuine courage, men like John Murtha and maybe Arlen Specter, but most of the others just seem to follow the leader, without any real ideas of their own. As I said, it’s all about money and power. We need a change in Washington. Maybe that can start in 2006.

And what about Al Gore? I'd love to see him president in 2009. I've talked about him before in this blog. He is one of the few Democrats who did not vote for the Iraq War, and is therefore not tainted by it. Most of the others, namely Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and John Edwards, cannot say the same. Therefore, Al Gore, as I see it is not part of the problem as the others are. I think he would make a fine president. At least I would feel that we had someone in the White House who had a mind of his own and who wanted to roll up his sleeves and really work to make this country a better place. I don't have that feeling with the current administration.

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Don’t delay
The families of the children who died from bird flu in Turkey delayed taking their sick children to the hospital. Would it have helped if they had gotten care sooner? Probably. With a disease like this, the passage of time can be as much of an enemy as can the flu.

Rising or falling?
Is bird flu risk diminishing in Turkey? Dr. Rodier, the WHO expert on the ground there, seems to think so. I believe that information and openness reduce the spread of any disease, particularly when the whole world is focusing so much attention on this one area. Other pandemics, I think, were born and flourished in the dark and in ignorance. We certainly don’t have that today in Turkey, at least not as much as we did three weeks ago. Do those conditions exist anywhere else? From what I’ve seen and heard even China seems to be making a major effort to crack down on H5N1, and avoid a pandemic. On the other hand, when China doesn’t share its samples of bird flu, and when you have such a huge country with so many people, and so many birds, and with so many opportunities for disease to go unreported, that tips the scale in favor of a pandemic ultimately developing. We are accustomed, in this country, to having instantaneous news. Bird flu isn’t like that. It will play out over the next few years. No one knows the final outcome. Let us hope a pandemic is not that outcome.

Another bad day for birds
There has been a report that a huge number of pigeons died in Murmansk. I don’t know what’s going on here. Are more birds than usual dying, or are we just reporting them better than ever before? I hope it’s the latter.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Food and Health Notes
Need a reason to eat your broccoli? It is supposed to fight prostate cancer.

And what about tomatoes? Lung disease.

And do you think that diet has nothing to do with mental illness? Would you believe a poor diet contributes to schizophrenia?

I know it would be difficult to get people to do this, but a low calorie diet is supposed to be better for you heart than a high calorie diet. Also, doesn't it help you live longer?

Diet can make you sick. It can also make you healthy.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

1970s Redux?
I want all you guys to get off Bush’s back. After all, our president is not a crook. Is he?

Bird Flu
Boy, if you read the bird flu news, it doesn’t sound good. Authorities think they may have found the first case of human to human transmission; a duck in Scotland tests positive for bird flu; more death in Turkey, with video; the brother of a girl who died tested positive for H5N1.

The other flu
Fox News points out that while bird flu may be a potential threat to the West, there are lots of actual threats here now, on door handles you push, on change you get back from buying coffee, in the air you breathe. And some of these diseases will actually kill about 35,000 people this year. I know. I got some awful stomach flu back before Christmas. I certainly don’t want to sick again.

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Bad news from Zogby
The president’s poll numbers are down again, which doesn’t surprise me. What surprises me is that 40% of the people actually think the country is moving in the right direction, and that about one in three think Bush is actually doing a good job.

More social ills
I’m not sure there is ever a good time to be homeless, but now is definitely not one of those times. Here is a report listing the top twenty cities which are hostile to homeless people. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, with so many new displaced people, you would think our country would be more charitable instead of more mean-spirited. America has not always been like this. And we’re headed in the right direction?

Cautious optimism?
There was a big flurry of bird flu cases in Turkey there for awhile, but now they seem to have somewhat subsided, with no new cases cropping up in the past few days. All that should be encouraging, and it is, but officials remain cautious in case the disease flares up again.

Or cautious pessimism?
On the other hand, Guenael Rodier, a prominent WHO official investigating the outbreak in Turkey, says that it is possible that bird flu has been spread from human to human. Though there is no evidence to support that contention, Rodier gives some interesting reasons why this possibility exists. He also gives interesting reasons why such an eventuality might not result in a pandemic.

Migratory birds?
The controversy over whether migrating birds spread H5N1 continues. Now Finland has joined the discussion. I must say that I have been perplexed over this question, but now I really believe that migrating birds actually do spread bird flu. Once I saw video of Van, where those three Turkish children died, I decided that was the only conclusion I could reach.

What is the risk of a pandemic?
Here is a global map which graphically displays the likelihood that a pandemic will occur, country by country. For the record, the risk of a pandemic striking the US is medium. The risk to Great Britain is extreme. (Thanks to Worldwide Disasters for pointing me to the map.)

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Friday, January 13, 2006

The Blame Game
The 2006 budget deficit is now supposed to exceed $400 billion, and people are already blaming Katrina for the increase over previous projections. No, don’t blame Katrina. Blame tax cuts for the rich and the Iraq war. Natural phenomena like Hurricanes are going to happen, and the government factors that into a budget. The rich don’t usually get the kind of monetary windfall that George W. Bush has handed them, and the war in Iraq was unnecessary, not to mention expensive.

So, is bird flu evolving?
It is not a question of if bird flu is evolving, but how. Here are some interesting stories about just how H5N1 is changing, one from Reuters, and one from Guardian Unlimited. It is great to be able to follow the development of something like this, with the modern technology we have now. I feel a little guilty sitting here in front of my computer reading about such a scary situation. And I feel sorry for the families of the children who died. I hope no one else has to die. Maybe our scientists can do something about that.

Seed Bank
This is a concept that I thought of long ago: seed banks, a place where one could preserve the world’s seeds in case something happened to the seeds in nature. I admit that my concern was prompted by the fact that corporations all over the world are genetically modifying everything they can get their forceps on. Eventually there won’t be a crop on earth that is not genetically modified. I view that as a bad thing. Also, there is a big possibility, in my mind, that the scientists might screw it up bigtime, and we might end up with a world devoid of something we would really miss, like tomatoes for example. So a seed bank is a good idea.

According to Wikipedia seed banks already exist. You can read about them here. Also, this Google link might lead you to more articles if you are really interested. And now Norway is building its own seed bank inside a mountain. Good for them. Someday humanity may need to make a withdrawal from the world’s seed banks.

Regarding Pat Robertson
There is an old saying, “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.”

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Cover up and survive
What is this, the truth or somebody just trying to cover themselves? You may remember the report that said that 80% of marine casualties in Iraq would have been avoidable with proper body armor. Now here is an article which has the Pentagon trying to rationalize giving soldiers the apparently inadequate armor. “We must not burden our soldiers with (too much) weight,” the article says. Existing armor weighs almost ninety pounds.

The Pentagon periodically upgrades the armor, but the report revealing the figures mentioned above was released in June, so the Democrats want to know why or if the brass are dragging their feet on making the upgrades. Looks like this may be just one more issue tossed around during this election year.

In the bull's-eye
A group did a study and determined that Great Britain has the highest risk of suffering catastrophic consequences if a bird flu pandemic occurs, because of its high population density, urbanization, and large number of tourists. These are just the conditions which would facilitate the spread of the disease if the virus mutates and makes it there. Therefore, that nation would likely suffer the greatest impact from a pandemic. Of course we all know that a lot of airplanes fly in and out of there, so while the UK may turn out to be the epicenter of a pandemic, the rest of the world is not totally safe.

IHT update
International Herald Tribune always has interesting stories. This one is an update and analysis of bird flu.

Who’s counting?
Just for the record, the number of bird flu deaths now stands at 78. The number was stuck in the low seventies for a long time, but has risen recently with the deaths in Turkey.

Update Trinidad
Tests revealed that a fungal infection, not bird flu, killed 2000 chickens at a farm in Trinidad. Nevertheless, the remaining 4000+ chickens at that farm will be destroyed.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Bird Flu Video
Here is the latest video from Reuters, including footage of Van, the place where the teenagers died from bird flu.

Dire Situation
Those who don’t think bird flu is serious should think about this: in Turkey, several people have died recently from the disease, many more have become infected, exposure seems to be increasing, and now the FAO is warning that bird flu could become endemic in Turkey. If that happens, that’s not good. It was one thing when H5N1 was an East Asian problem, but Turkey, then Europe, then North America is not that far away. Besides, endemic also means that it could be a serious problem for a long time. That just provides more opportunity for a pandemic to develop. Heaven save us.

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Iran showdown?
Rhetoric is heating up between the United States and Iran. The United States is concerned because Iran is ending its two year freeze of uranium enrichment, although some say that Iran never actually froze its program. Will we see actions heat up as well? That sort of possibility is definitely on the table. The world is just getting more and more dangerous.

Bush campaign mode
This is a good idea: George W. Bush in campaign mode warning Democrats not to criticize the war. Yes, Mr. President, go out there and talk about this every day. We want to see you defending your misbegotten war, and every day, though I wish it weren't so, we will read in the newspapers about how many more people are dying because of your policy, and how much money is going down the drain. The best ally the Democrats have? George W. Bush and the Iraq war. Then let the people decide.

Difference between O’Connor and Alito
I thought Joe Biden was right Tuesday when he was questioning Judge Alito about the woman who was passed over for promotion at her job, and who was suing her employer for discrimination. I really did feel that she was the victim of a subtle form of discrimination, and I felt that Alito sided with the employer when he really should have sided with the woman. On that basis alone I would vote not to confirm.

Budging on the Budget
Good luck to the president and to Treasury Secretary John Snow in getting their budget passed. Many people expect the budget to be “dead on arrival when it gets up to the Hill,” said Stanley Collender, a budget specialist. If they make the kind of cuts I fear, then it should be D.O.A.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Setting the record straight
This fact sheet from the World Health Organization, although published in 2004, has some interesting information that provides background on bird flu, and puts to rest some rumors. For example:

Wild ducks naturally carry bird flu viruses and are largely resistant to them. There has been some speculation I’ve seen that ducks die from the disease in a matter of days. This turns out not to be true.

It is important for countries to share as much information as they have about bird flu outbreaks. China’s reluctance to share bird flu samples with WHO is not good, and possibly contributes to the problem.

Anyway, this an interesting article, and one that can provide the reader some insight on what is going on in the world today.

Bad time to be a bird
Thousands of chickens have died in Trinidad. Authorities say the deaths were not caused by bird flu.

Tuesday bird flu video
Here is video from Reuters on the bird flu.

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Supreme Court
Here is the upcoming schedule for the Judge Alito hearings.

Win, or die trying?
Ted Stevens of Alaska, 82, just doesn’t quit, does he? He says he’s going to stay in office and keep pushing to open up ANWR to oil drilling. You’ve got to admire his determination, but I think he’s fighting a losing battle.

We don’t know if H5N1 has mutated yet, but a World Health Organization official says that it is on the verge of doing so. Dr. Guenael Rodier said “The more humans infected with the avian virus, the more chance it has to adapt.” In Turkey, human infection with H5N1 is widespread and seems to be growing. So far, however, infection seems to be limited to those who were in close contact with sick birds.

More H5N1
Reuters is reporting that bird flu seems to spread to humans rather easily, and that symptoms are often relatively mild. Here is an article about the current H5N1 virus, and the Spanish Flu of 1918. (To read more about H5N1 and the 1918 pandemic, try this google link.) And here is more in-depth analysis from the CBC.

Why are we putting so much money into vaccines? We need more effective antivirals, folks. Treat the people who are sick right now, not the people who might, but probably won’t, get sick. Come on!

More Bird Flu Video
Here is a video from Reuters on the situation in Turkey.

Would China cover things up?
Is China being fully transparent in reporting the incidence of bird flu in its country? Some people say yes, while some people say no. Hong Kong virologist Guan Yi denies that he made allegations of a Chinese cover-up, but who knows if this is true or if he’s just trying to stay out of trouble with the authorities?

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Monday, January 09, 2006

News of Note
Harry Belafonte was kissing up to Hugo Chavez bigtime this weekend. Last year Pat Robertson called for the assassination of Chavez. Both these positions seem a little extreme to me. I would prefer it if our attitude were somewhere in the middle.

India is taking steps to protect some of their natural remedies and traditional medicine against bio-piracy. Good for them. Big drug companies and multinational corporations get enough preferential treatment as it is. Let the people keep what belongs to the people.

Mizgin at has some powerful good reading about bird flu in Turkey. For example, how can poor Turks or Kurds be expected to cooperate in the fight against bird flu when they think their birds are being killed in order to drive up the price of lamb? Talk about understanding a foreign culture, spend some time with Mizgin. It’s interesting stuff. (By the way, bird flu has reached Istanbul now, in birds, not humans. That's not really big news though. Birds have tested positive for H5N1 in Romania, Russia, and Croatia prior to this. But this morning there are five new human bird flu cases. Oh well . . .)

Also in Turkey, the man who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981 is being released from prison. I suppose that if John Paul can forgive him, then the rest of us can too.

Isn't it interesting how Turkey is the focus of so much news lately?

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Here is more bird flu video:

What do you think about seeing those bags full of live, writhing, birds? Eeerie, huh? This is the front lines of a possible pandemic.
National Debt tops $8 trillion
Everybody needs to read this article about the Republican spending habits and deficit creation.

With this in mind, Bush is asking Congress to keep the tax cuts, and it also looks like he is taking the scissors to benefit programs.

Some people have courage
Eight US House democrats are supporting an impeachment inquiry for the president.

Burning Issue
Regarding Hillary Clinton's support for a bill outlawing flag burning, of course she's pandering to those voters who also support such legislation. That's what politics is all about. That's what the brouhaha over the Pledge of Allegiance was all about during the 1988 election campaign of Bush #41. Some people will actually vote for her just because of this issue. That would be kind of poetic justice, wouldn't it?

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Reuters Bird Flu Video
Here is a video from Reuters about bird flu in Turkey that I thought people might be interested in.

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Sunday notes
Three more bird flu cases, this time in Ankara, 600 miles from Van, where the children died who had played with chicken heads. Here are some articles. (BBC, itar-tass, newsasia,

Here are two articles from No Contact Politics about bird flu that I find interesting. (October 2005, January 2006)

Here’s an op-ed piece that says the US only looks prosperous because the Bush administration has run up the national debt, making the point that it’s easy to seem prosperous when you’re borrowing big and spending big. But eventually the credit card bill comes in the mail. Anyway, you get the analogy. I think the writer has a good point, one that the Democrats would love to get a crack at.

The hearings for Judge Alito begin tomorrow. In some ways, particularly with regard to the issue of domestic spying, the Alito nomination seems a little like cronyism to me: if you’re doing something that you know is wrong, you want to appoint someone who is on your side. Alito seems to be on Bush’s side with regard to that issue, and justices on the Supreme Court shouldn’t take sides. Can we get an impartial Justice here?

Finally, for a chuckle or two, all we are saying, is give Bush a chance.

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