Friday, January 17, 2003

Man Bites Shark...Hard

Scientists from Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia say the population of most species of shark in the northwest Atlantic Ocean have declined greatly in recent years and over-fishing is the cause. The scientists estimate:

"that all recorded shark species, with the exception of makos, have declined by more than 50% in the past 8 to 15 years."

Since many species of shark gestate for many months before reproducing, over-fishing has a dramatic effect on the apex predators.

The Dalhousie team report a number of individual species' loss rates from 1986 to 2000:

hammerheads: 89%
white sharks: 79%
tiger sharks: 65%
coastal species (from 1992): 61%
threshers: 80%
blue sharks: 60%.

This is a problem. Sharks perform much of Darwin's work in the ocean, killing off the weak animals and keeping the waters clean of rotting carcasses. If sharks continue to diminish in numbers--or even disappear altogether--the long-term effects on all marine life cannot be known. And if it is this bad in the northwest Atlantic, how bad is it in the rest of the planet's waters?

It is time to extend the same legal protection to many species of shark that now cover other large marine animals. It may seem counterituitive, but sharks need our protection. We've done them far worse than they've ever done us.

Praise the Lord & Pass the French Fries

A new Harvard University study called "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?" asserts that improving technology in the preparation of food has made it easier for us to stuff our pieholes more often, leading many to massive weight gain. Apparently, our tendency toward obesity (nearly a third of all Americans are obese, a far greater percentage than any other country surveyed) is not a result of lack of exercise or an increase in the size of our portions at meals. We're just snacking all the time and these modern, easily-prepared meals are not healthy.

I've never had a problem with my weight, but after reading these findings, I think I'll hit the abs crunches a little harder from now on. The health disadvantages to obesity are legion.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

The People Want Proof

According to a report released just minutes ago by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, only 28% of Americans support an invasion of Iraq if the United Nations weapons inspectors find no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Even if the inspectors find no weapons, but do find evidence that Iraq is hiding its ability to produce such weapons, only 46% of the American public favors an invasion of Iraq. Furthermore, 74% of Americans consider battling international terrorism, not invading Iraq, as the most important foreign policy goal for the United States.

This is a certain public relations setback for the Bush administration's attitude of bellicosity. Polls are increasingly showing the public is uncertain about the quality of leadership it is getting from the White House, even as Mr Bush himself remains popular. Now one of the most respected voices on public opinion is demonstrating that the American public takes a far more thoughtful and less belligerent view of Iraq than the Bush administration. The big question now is whether or not what passes for a political opposition in this country can take notice of this and rally the American people to a foreign and defense policy devoted to crushing terrorism and spreading traditional American values of tolerance, respect, and the rule of law--the values of Liberalism.

This is Getting Embarrassing

Slate columnist/homonculous Mickey Kaus has a running grudge against The New York Times, but now Mr Kaus as sunk to new depths in his campaign against the Gray Lady and its editor-in-chief Howell Raines. The Washington Post has hired a reporter named Blaine Harden from the NY Times and Kaus chooses to regard this as evidence that reporters dislike working for Mr Raines and are preparing to leave en masse.

So, let's recap. One reporter is hired away from The NY Times by the Washington Post. And this is the beginning of a possible avalanche of such defections, according to Mr Kaus in his column entitled "Refugees from Raines"?

All of this leads me to ask the question: Is Mickey Kaus becoming dumber or just louder?

Say What??

I was alerted to this story by the good folks at Tapped. Apparently, there is now a 'deaf pride' movement self-consciously modeled on the 'gay pride' movement, determined to make deafness respectable to the rest of society. Sounds fine, right? Nothing any good liberal wouldn't like. (Besides, I never regarded deafness as unrespectable, just unfortunate.) However, it seems that some deaf people believe that attempts to cure or treat deafness amount to an assault on 'deaf culture' and are a form of 'cultural genocide.' Okay, that's weird, but probably doesn't mean very much in practical terms, right? Well, as this report demonstrates, some deaf parents of deaf children are refusing to allow their children to receive treatment to alleviate or even cure their deafness, on the grounds that to do so would amount to 'cultural genocide.' Yes, you read that correctly. Deaf parents would prefer their deaf children remain deaf because otherwise they would be turning their backs on 'deaf culture.'

All of which leads me to believe that some of these parents are suffering from a disability far worse than deafness.
Surprise, Surprise
Technological advances and post-September 11 paranoia are turning the United States into a big brother state, warns the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in its new report, Bigger Monster, Weaker Chains: The Growth of an American Surveillance Society.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch is increasingly critical of the cavalier way the Bush admin is treating human rights worldwide as it wages its War on Terror. As Joe Conason writes, "HRW warns that when the Bush administration divorces human rights advocacy from its security policy, as in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, both objectives are undermined. Support for repression encourages terror. It's an argument with tremendous salience for anyone who wants to defeat al-Qaida."

It is traditional American virtues of tolerance for dissent and respect for others that fans the hatred of terrorists against us, but it is those same values which will ensure our victory over terrorism--if we hold to them. No one in the Bush admin understands this. Hopefully, some courageous politician or two will make them understand.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

It's No Big Deal. Really!
White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels deigned to tell us all what we already knew: We're heading for record-breaking budget deficits. Of course, it's no big deal. Really.
The Voice of NPR
The Washington Monthly has an interesting and amusing story on what it takes to be a Voice on National Public Radio. The story also explores the differences between the uber-respectable NPR and its hipper counterpart, Public Radio Internantional, that skews younger, with shows like Marketplace. I like them both for different reasons, but one thing both NPR and PRI have in common is that they provide the sole radio alternative to the right-wing hatefest to be found almost everywhere else on the dial.
'Crazy' North Korean Dictator Outwits Bush
That doesn't sound too difficult, does it? (Even for a loon.) Crack reporter and all-around good cobber Peter Hartcher details how Kim Jong-Il has run circles around Mr Bush and Mr Cheney. Despite all the tough rhetoric early in his administration that delighted right-wing pundits, Bush has found himself--slowly and reluctantly--adopting the same North Korean policies adopted by the Clinton administration. The same things the Bush admin and its coven of admirers denounced as 'Clintonite appeasement' have become the current policy of the U.S. government. As you, I'm waiting for the columns of vituperative outrage from the likes of Michael Kelly, Charles Krauthammer, and George Will.
The Real Tennis Babe
Tired of the media obsession with international fashion model and occasional tennis player Anna Kournikova? I know I am. Well, The Sydney Morning Herald has a story on a beautiful, young tennis player named Daniela Hantuchova, who has already won more tournaments than Kournikova. (Anna was eliminated yesterday in her traditional fashion, 6-0 and 6-1.) Hantuchova is 19 and apparently the owner of the longest pair of legs in professional tennis. (How such a fact ever emerged remains beyond the knowledge of modern science.) What's more, she can actually play the game. Hantuchova, a native of Slovakia, has already won the tournament at Indian Wells, reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and triumphed 7-6, 7-6 in her first round match in the Australian Open.

Go, Daniela!

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Not the Southern Strategery He Had in Mind
The latest polls show W's numbers heading south. Seems one or two people have actually caught on to this dimwitted phoney's act. Apparently, running the economy into the ground, turning the nation's biggest budget surpluses into gigantic deficits, and waging war against anything that moves is not precisely what lots of Americans thought they were getting after September 11, 2001. Their naivete is touching.

Oh, and did I forget to mention trillions of dollars in wealth disappearing from the stock markets? It seems not everyone is thrilled with that plan either.

Joe Conason gives his view of it here.
It Can Be Done
The Economist, a conservative Anglo-American weekly newspaper, endorsed Mr Bush for president in 2000 (partly out of a belief that he would be more pro-free trade, an almost charmingly naive assumption, as events unfolded), but the paper now believes Bush is beatable. An article from the latest issue details how a Democratic presidential hopeful can defeat Mr Bush and win the White House. Firstly, take a firm stance on terror and don't be afraid to criticize this admin's many failings in the War on Terror. Secondly, wage class warfare because the GOP is sure as hell waging it. Thirdly, point to the disastrous economic and fiscal consequences of Bushonomics. Sounds right to me.
Sharon Bouncing Back?
After a tough week of financial scandal revelations and television eruptions, Israeli Prime Minister and his right-wing ruling Likud Party are bouncing back according to one poll. Last month, Likud was boasting of winning over 40 seats in the January 28 elections. After further revelations of finanacial scandals involving Prime Minister Sharon, polls showed Likud falling to about 27 or 28 seats in the next Knesset. The latest polls have Likud somewhere between 30-35 seats. Expect further changes before the election is held, but one thing is certain: Labour is going to get destroyed.

Monday, January 13, 2003

TDR NFL Power Poll
Before getting on to the Power Poll, let me note that the top four rated teams from last week all won. Shows what I know, eh? And now, I give you the standing, the fallen, and the forgotten.

The Standing
1. Philadelphia Eagles (13-4): Delivered a measured lesson in dominance to the Falcons on Saturday evening. With one game back under his belt, Donovan McNabb will be ready for the fearsome Tampa defense on Sunday. (No change)

2. Oakland Raiders (12-5): After a first half of foolishly trying to establish the run, the Raiders put the ball into the hands of their MVP quarterback and went back to doing what they do best: Throwing on almost every down. (No change)

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4): Stomping the Niners was expected, but the offensive efficiency was not. Brad Johnson looked a little rusty, but he'll be in better shape for the NFC Championship Game. But can he lead the cold-wary Bucs to a win in Philadelphia in late January? (No change)

4. Tennessee Titans (12-5): There is no gutsier and resourceful quarterback in the NFL than Steve McNair. The more damage he takes, the better he plays. (No change)

The Fallen
5. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-6-1): A valiant effort on the road comes to a queasy ending, but the correct call was made. Get some cornerbacks and try again next year. (+2)

6. New York Jets (10-8): The Jets are good and have a bright future with Pennington, Coles, Moss, and Lamont Jordan on offense, but the AFC belongs to the Raiders this year. (-1)

7. Atlanta Falcons (10-7-1): A great season comes to a predictable end in Philadelphia. That game demonstrated the important differences between a great team and a one-man team. (-1)

8. San Francisco 49ers (11-7): A damn good beatdown is just what this team deserved and just what this team got. Will Mooch be back? He should be, but a meddlesome management group is probably looking to replace him. (No change)

9. Green Bay Packers (12-5)
10. New York Giants (10-7)
11. Cleveland Browns (9-8)
12. Indianapolis Colts (10-7)

The Forgotten
13. New England Patriots (9-7)
14. Denver Broncos (9-7)
15. Miami Dolphins (9-7)
16. Kansas City Chiefs (8-8)
17. Buffalo Bills (8-8)
18. New Orleans Saints (9-7)
19. San Diego Chargers (8-8)
20. Washington Redskins (7-9)
21. Baltimore Ravens (7-9)
22. Seattle Seahawks (7-9)
23. Minnesota Vikings (6-10)
24. Carolina Panthers (7-9)
25. St. Louis Rams (7-9)
26. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10)
27. Dallas Cowboys (5-11)
28. Arizona Cardinals (5-11)
29. Chicago Bears (4-12)
30. Houston Texans (4-12)
31. Detroit Lions (3-13)
32. Cincinnati Bengals (2-14)
And the Winner is...Not Me!
There needs to be an Awards Show Network. It's important. Critically important. I'm talking about a cable television channel that does nothing but broadcast things like the Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, Grammys, American Music Awards, Country Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards and, yes, even the People's Choice Awards. All of them. Non-stop. From years gone by right up until today. And just for good measure, this channel should probably show all those interminable pre-awards shows where the focus is on what the designers have draped over each actress/singer/waif making her painfully slow way down the red carpet.

Why? I'll tell you why, dammit! So that hordes of females can be locked up in rooms with televisions showing nothing but this awards show channel. It has come to my attention that millions and millions of American females love awards shows. All of them. Any of them. As long as no sports are involved.

Now, before anyone roasts me for being a sexist (and for generalizing), let me note that I typed 'millions and millions,' not all females. I'm pretty certain I'm on solid ground when I write that millions of American females love awards shows. The Truth is an absolute defense and I claim it here.

This affection for awards shows baffles me. I loathe them. Despise them. Find myself repulsed by them. Can barely watch even the most important of them. The Grammys are unwatchable. The Emmys even more so. (Are those Emmys Awards shows really six hours long or does it just seem that way.) The Oscars are difficult, too, but I find myself able to watch some of that program. When the Oscars are on, I check out who wins what award and then turn the sound down and get on with reading or working on the computer or ...whatever. As long as I don't have to hear any Hollywood celebrities thanking their agent and their Creator (in that order) for the award they have just received, I can handle the Oscars. Otherwise, I have to check out what's on Animal Planet.
Brit Rocker, MPs: Perverts or Just Idiots?
According to British newspaper The Guardian, The Who guitarist Pete Townshend and two Labour Party members of Parliament are under investigation for accessing a child porn Web site. Townshend claims he accessed the site as part of research for a book. Interesting theory. If he's honest, he's a moron. If he's lying, he's a repulsive pervert. Here's rooting for the moron.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Well, Duh!
Actual headline: Teacher quality lags in poorer schools
See you next Sunday
Well, another week of NFL playoffs is done and it went just as I expected. The Raiders ended the NY Jets' magical mystery tour, the Bucs crushed the Niners (who had no business being there in the first place), the Titans finally finished off the Steelers, and the Eagles reminded the Falcons that a championship team is not a one-man team. The Raiders-Titans and Eagles-Buccaneers games should be fun.
Most Brits Oppose Bush War of Revenge
A new poll shows most Brits oppose Bush's war plans. Are you listening, Mr. Blair?