Author: BooMan

The Real BooMan

Newfoundlands are large, sturdy dogs known for their intelligence and gentle disposition—and centuries of service rescuing people from drowning. While the hunky breed is better known today as a pet, a few still serve as lifeguards in the United States.

Named for the Canadian province where it originated, the Newfoundland’s webbed feet, rudder-like tail, and water-resistant coat make it a natural swimmer. But over the centuries it is the dog’s devotion to people that has made it a hero. The plucky breed is credited for pulling so many people in distress from the water that it has earned its nickname “lifeguard dog.”

Following an instinctive urge to rescue people in need, Newfoundlands use big, powerful strokes to swim out to a person in trouble and they use their large mouths to grab and tow someone to the safety of the shore.

If a swimmer is unconscious, the dogs have been taught to grab the person’s upper arm in their mouth. This rolls the person onto his back, keeping his face out of the water.

Newfoundlands do all this by training. But they also seem to instinctively know when people are in danger of drowning and don’t have to be prompted to spring into action, according to breeders.

These innate abilities were so widely respected in the 1800s that the dogs were considered “required lifesaving equipment” along the coast of England.

From Beaches to Boats

The Newfoundland’s strong swimming skills and intelligence also earned it a job on European and American sailing vessels. In 1919, when a ship called Ethie ran aground off the Canadian coast, historians credit a Newfoundland named Tang for saving the entire crew. The massive dog is said to have jumped into the turbulent sea and swam to shore with the ship’s rope in his mouth. People on the beach secured the line and used it to bring all 92 crewmembers safely to safety.

Tang’s good deed didn’t go unnoticed. Historians say the dog received a medal for bravery from the famous insurance company, Lloyds of London, which it wore for the rest of its life.

While many things have changed in the world since the Ethie sank, the Newfoundland’s uncanny ability to know when people need help has not.

In 1995 Boo and his owner were out for a stroll along the Yuba River in Northern California. As they made their way around a bend, the 10-month old dog spotted trouble. Without hesitation, he dove into the water and swam toward a man, who was holding onto a red gas can, desperately trying to stay afloat in the swollen current. Boo grabbed the man’s arm and pulled him safely to shore.

The man was a deaf-mute and couldn’t call for help, said Janice Anderson, Boo’s breeder. He had fallen into the river while gold dredging.

“Boo had no formal training in water rescue,” explained Anderson, a Newfoundland breeder for 30 years. “It was just instinct. He picked up on the fact that there was someone in distress and then dealt with the situation.”

The Newfoundland Club of America, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, awarded Boo a medal for his heroism in 1996.

Water Search Dogs

Today only a few Newfoundlands officially work as lifeguards. In England, Bear helps train teen lifeguards at the Cotswolds Water Park. In Italy, Mas has been coached by trainer Ferugio Pelenga to leap from helicopters into the ocean to rescue people from drowning. And in the United States, Moby, a crew member on Rapture Marine Expeditions in California, watches up to 150 young people on board at a time.

Newfoundlands are one of the most versatile of all dogs that work. In addition to saving people from drowning, their sweet disposition and gentle nature shines through in therapy work. The breed’s beauty and brawn has also made it a successful competitor in the show ring as well as in drafting, obedience, and water trials.

In keeping with the breed’s love of water, Nicki Gundersen of Lenexa, Kansas, found the perfect job for Calvin. The 10-year-old black Newfoundland is a trained water search dog and uses his powerful sense of smell to locate bodies of drowned victims.

“The fact that we can help people bring some closure in an unhappy situation is a bonus, Gundersen said of the volunteer work.

Newfies are good in this field because they don’t need to be trained how to swim, or overcome a fear of water, like some other breeds. While there are no official numbers on how many Newfoundlands are certified in water search-and-recovery, Gundersen estimates there are less than 50 throughout the United States.

The Kansas resident responds to several calls each year, most of which are alcohol-related boating and swimming accidents.

In this part of the country Calvin’s skills are especially needed because the lakes and rivers have silt bottoms, which makes the water black. Dive teams have limited visibility underwater and need help narrowing down where to look.

These highly trained canines also make recovery efforts go faster. Gundersen recalled one case where a man had been dared to swim across a turbulent river but didn’t make it to the other side. The victim’s family and park rangers searched eight hours for the man. No luck. Then Calvin was called. It took the dog 45 minutes to locate the body.

At the scene of an accident, Calvin doesn’t jump into the water and search for the victim. Instead, the 125-pound (47-kilogram) dog rides in a small inflatable boat, sniffing the water’s surface for oil and skin particles that have risen to the top.

When Calvin picks up the scent, he barks once or twice. Gundersen concentrates the search in that area until Calvin scratches at the bottom of the boat, indicating he has found the victim. A dive team is then sent to retrieve the body.

LMAO

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid called President Bush “a loser” during a civics discussion with a group of teenagers at a high school on Friday.

“The man’s father is a wonderful human being,” Reid, D-Nev., told students at Del Sol High School when asked about the president’s policies. “I think this guy is a loser.”

Shortly after the event Reid called the White House to apologize, his spokeswoman Tessa Hafen said. Reid spoke with Bush adviser Karl Rove, asking him to convey the apology to Bush, who was traveling in Europe.
Wash Post: Free Reg

Open Thread

“It’s okay to correct the president – just not in front of all the TV cameras.”
—Bush, speaking at the White House Economic Conference, after being corrected by a participant, Dec. 15, 2004.

What Happened to Moderation?

A diary over at dKos got me thinking about what it means to be a moderate, and what has happened to the whole idea of political moderation.

In 1964, five years before I was born, Barry Goldwater made an infamous and damaging comment at the Republican National Convention. He said, “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

Lyndon Johnson had a potent retort, “Extremism in the pursuit of the Presidency is an unpardonable vice. Moderation in the affairs of the nation is the highest virtue.”

It’s a growing meme that the re-election of George W. Bush marks the final triumph of Goldwaterism. In many ways, I think this meme is a pile of crap. Goldwater was caricatured by the Democrats during the 1964 campaign, and his legacy has been similarly distorted and co-opted ever since. George Will actually had the temerity to say that Giuliani and Schwarzenegger’s 2004 convention speeches marked the return of ‘Goldwaterism’. George Will is a reliable idiot. Whether the current crop of Republicans owes anything to Goldwater’s political philosophy or not, the debate over moderation is alive and well.

Many of us are nostalgic for the days when moderation in the affairs of state was considered a virtue. We are not predisposed to be radical, intemperate, or overly partisan. And yet, that is exactly how we feel in the current political climate.

We feel marginalized, threatened, condescended to, angry, bitter, and in no mood for reaching for consensus. And we’re right to feel this way.

And that got me thinking about what it means to be a ‘moderate’. What does ‘moderate’ mean in a political context?

‘Moderate’ should mean that you believe in the two party system, that you think sanity lies near the center of both parties, and that the ideal government involves a broad cross-party center that does most of the work of building consensus, making compromises, and hammering out the details of legislation.

But we’ve lost that cross-party consensus, and while Iraq is not the only issue the blew it up, it was the biggest factor. In fact, longtime moderates like Biden and Kerry were swept up in the meat-grinder that destroyed moderation, and the validity of moderation. Once they realized that we were going to war in Iraq, they did the time-honored thing that moderates do. They tried to make the best of it. They tried to reach out to the UN, they tried to get Colin Powell to moderate and modulate the alienating rhetoric coming out of the White House and Pentagon. They tried to be patriots, in their own way. They were not rewarded.

The Bush administration ignored all the helpful advice that came from moderates in Congress, the State Department, the CIA, the salons of Washington and New York, and the pen of Tom Friedman. And the effect of this alienation was to destroy any consensus, or any middle, about what the ‘War on Terror’ means, why is should be fought, how it should be fought, or even whether it should be fought.

The fact that Iraq has been a complete disaster has had the effect of discrediting any moderates on the left who attempted to work on the ‘project’. And now, in return for their ill-fated cooperation on the biggest foreign policy initiative in two generations, they have been paid back with a list of nominees for our most important national security posts that most Democrats think should be in jail. Look at the list: Negroponte, Rice, Bolton, Chertoff, Gonzales, and Goss.

When a man like Dick Lugar tries to ram home a man like John Bolton, you know that there is no longer any room in the Republican Party for independent thought. They want to crush their opponents, humiliate them, irritate them…

Whatever Goldwater’s faults, this does not strike me as his legacy. His legacy, ironically, is that it is now we, on the left, that see no virtue in moderation. We see only resistance. We do not see ourselves as extremists, but our rhetoric is extreme. It is extreme because there is no longer any viable moderate center to appeal to.

Moderation is dead…for the time being. And Goldwater’s caricature is now the caricature of the left.

Man Eegee is a Stud-like Hoss

Man Eegee volunteered to make up a guide for the Newbie that would help newcomers navigate the site and understand all its features.

Boy!! did he do a good job. I am going to post his effort below so that we can have a comments period, and then I’ll integrate this masterpiece into the FAQ and create a new page for newcomers. Go below the fold. -Boo

Class Exercise

Student Suspended for Call to Mom in Iraq

The Associated Press
Friday, May 6, 2005; 12:23 PM

COLUMBUS, Ga. — A high school student was suspended for 10 days for refusing to end a mobile phone call with his mother, a soldier serving in Iraq, school officials said.

The 10-day suspension was issued because Kevin Francois was “defiant and disorderly” and was imposed in lieu of an arrest, Spencer High School assistant principal Alfred Parham said.

The confrontation Wednesday began after the 17-year-old junior got a call at lunchtime from his mother, Sgt. 1st Class Monique Bates, who left in January for a one-year tour with the 203rd Forward Support Battalion.
WashPost: AP

Okay kids, for our exercise today, tell me what’s wrong with the headline.

McGovern on the Criminals Bush and Blair

I don’t know if all of you are familiar with Ray McGovern. McGovern is a former high level member of the Central Intelligence Agency, who has been a very vocal critic of the George W. Bush administration, and especially of the Iraq war. I cribbed the following from his official bio:

Ray McGovern’s 27-year career as a CIA analyst spanned administrations from John F. Kennedy to George H. W. Bush.

Ray’s duties at CIA included chairing National Intelligence Estimates and preparing the President’ Daily Brief (PDB). These, the most authoritative genres of intelligence reporting, have been the focus of press reporting on “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq and on what the president was told before 9/11. During the mid-eighties, Ray was one of the senior analysts conducting early morning briefings of the PDB one-on-one with the Vice President, the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs.

Ray received his B.A., summa cum laude, from Fordham College and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Designated a Distinguished Military Graduate, he was commissioned upon graduation and served as an infantry/intelligence officer in the US Army from 1962-64. Ray holds an M.A. in Russian Studies from Fordham University and a certificate in Theological Studies from Georgetown University. He is also a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program.

At his retirement ceremony, Ray received the Intelligence Commendation Medal and a letter from then-president George H. W. Bush wishing him well in his transition to non-profit work in inner-city Washington.

Let me recap. McGovern started out at the CIA during the Kennedy administration, when the agency was going through its first crisis with the Bay of Pigs. He worked his way up until he was given the responsibility for explaining the daily presidential briefing, (the most closely guarded document in the whole government), to Vice-President Bush and the other high ranking people responsible for protecting our country from Soviet attack. When he retired he received a medal for his distinguished service, and a pat on the back from G.H.W. Bush. Does this sound like a man who is qualified to tell us what the leaked Blair memo is all about? Does he sound like a biased person with an ax to grind?

I didn’t think so, and that is why I found his interpretations so revealing.

Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would see those words in black and white – and beneath a SECRET stamp, no less. For three years now, we in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) have been saying that the CIA and its British counterpart, MI-6, were ordered by their countries’ leaders to “fix facts” to “justify” an unprovoked war on Iraq. More often than not, we have been greeted with stares of incredulity.

It has been a hard learning – that folks tend to believe what they want to believe. As long as our evidence, however abundant and persuasive, remained circumstantial, it could not compel belief. It simply is much easier on the psyche to assent to the White House spin machine blaming the Iraq fiasco on bad intelligence than to entertain the notion that we were sold a bill of goods.

Well, you can forget circumstantial. Thanks to an unauthorized disclosure by a courageous whistleblower, the evidence now leaps from official documents – this time authentic, not forged.
Antiwar.com

The documents are actually the official minutes of a July 23, 2002 briefing given by Richard Dearlove. Deerlove was then head of MI6, so his position was equivalent to George Tenet’s.

Mr. Dearlove, carrying out a duty very similar to McGovern’s job in the Reagan administration, briefed Tony Blair and his top national security officials about what he learned on his recent trip to Washington.

In emotionless English, Dearlove tells Blair and the others that President Bush has decided to remove Saddam Hussein by launching a war that is to be “justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.” Period. What about the intelligence? Dearlove adds matter-of-factly, “The intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy.” At this point, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw confirms that Bush has decided on war, but notes that stitching together a justification would be a challenge, since “the case was thin.” Straw noted that Saddam was not threatening his neighbors and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran.In the following months, “the case” would be buttressed by a well-honed U.S.-UK intelligence-turned-propaganda-machine. The argument would be made “solid” enough to win endorsement from Congress and Parliament by conjuring up:

·Aluminum artillery tubes misdiagnosed as nuclear related;
·Forgeries alleging Iraqi attempts to obtain uranium in Africa;

·Tall tales from a drunken defector about mobile biological weapons laboratories;

·Bogus warnings that Iraqi forces could fire WMD-tipped missiles within 45 minutes of an order to do so;

·Dodgy dossiers fabricated in London; and

·A U.S. National Intelligence Estimate thrown in for good measure.

This is the fact that the American people need to understand. The stovepiping of information was not the fundamental problem with the intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Stovepiping didn’t send William Safire onto a war-path, or transform Charles Krauthammer into a conspiracy theorist. They got their marching orders, just as George Tenet, Colin Powell, Tony Blair, and Silvio Berlusconi got theirs. The intelligence was faked. It did not exist.

First, Bush gave his axis-of-evil speech, which was basically a declaration of war on Iraq. It was obvious that we were not about to attack North Korea without the consent of South Korea. It was obvious that we would not attack Iran without first taking care of our ongoing disagreement with Iraq. As a reminder, this is what Bush said:

Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens — leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections — then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.

States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.

We will work closely with our coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction. We will develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect America and our allies from sudden attack. (Applause.) And all nations should know: America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation’s security.

We’ll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons. (Applause.)

When we look back at January 2002, we remember that the country was still rattled. We were still worried that our mail was contaminated, we were afraid that new sleeper cells might be activated and cause enormous harm to the country. And we were still intensely angry. I remember looking to the President to give us some reassurance, to help calm our nerves, and to set out a series of policy proposals for fundamentally changing our foreign policy in the Middle East. But the President chose instead to make demonstrably untrue and unsupported allegations about Iraq, and to declare that he would not wait around to do something about them.

At the time, I was shocked by the bellicosity of his rhetoric. And I was also frightened by it. I didn’t doubt that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Why else would he kick out the inspectors? So he could do an even better job of disarming himself?

Now the President was stating that we were going to topple his regime, and yet no plans or preparations had been made to follow through on the threat. I knew it would be at least a year until we would be ready to invade and I doubted Saddam would fail to craft a deadly defense, or even attack us preemptively. I thought the President was recklessly endangering the country.

But it was worse than that. Saddam did use his time to craft a deadly defense, and one that caught our military completely by surprise. But he didn’t have the WMD necessary to deliver a preemptive attack. And our intelligence agencies understood that. Even then, “the intelligence and facts (were) being fixed around the policy.” Richard Clarke told us this, Paul O’Neill told us this, and now Mr. Dearlove and Mr. Straw have told us this.

But, to make matters even worse, as Saddam busily planned for his post-war insurgency, six months passed by and the Pentagon had still done almost no planning for a post-war reconstruction.

All this, as Dearlove notes dryly, despite the fact that “there was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.”

And most outrageous of all, is the clear meaning of the following:

Another nugget from Dearlove’s briefing is his bloodless comment that one of the U.S. military options under discussion involved “a continuous air campaign, initiated by an Iraqi casus belli” – the clear implication being that planners of the air campaign would also see to it that an appropriate casus belli was orchestrated.

What does “initiated by an Iraqi casus belli” mean?

It can have only one meaning. As McGovern points out, we were prepared to fabricate an event that would serve as a pretext to attack Iraq. Anyone who claims the same for the war in Afghanistan is considered a loon. And I’m not suggesting 9/11 was an ‘Afghani casus belli’. But it is blood-curdling to realize that the Brits considered such an event a likely pretext for our shared war against Iraq. Does everyone understand the full meaning of those words? Does Larry King give a shit?

McGovern explains what this cynical attitude means for our intelligence agents, and the country:

Actually, politicization is far too mild a word for what happened. The intelligence was not simply mistaken; it was manufactured, with the president of the United States awarding foreman George Tenet the Medal of Freedom for his role in helping supervise the deceit. The British documents make clear that this was not a mere case of “leaning forward” in analyzing the intelligence, but rather mass deception – an order of magnitude more serious. No other conclusion is now possible.

Small wonder, then, to learn from CIA insiders such as former case officer Lindsay Moran that Tenet’s malleable managers told their minions, “Let’s face it. The president wants us to go to war, and our job is to give him a reason to do it.”

Small wonder that, when the only U.S. analyst who met with the alcoholic Iraqi defector appropriately code-named “Curveball” raised strong doubts about Curveball’s reliability before then-Secretary of State Colin Powell used the fabrication about “mobile biological weapons trailers” before the United Nations, the analyst got this e-mail reply from his CIA supervisor:
“Let’s keep in mind the fact that this war’s going to happen regardless of what Curveball said or didn’t say, and the powers that be probably aren’t terribly interested in whether Curveball knows what he’s talking about.”

And McGovern sums it all up with appropriate disgust:

Seldom does one have documentary evidence that intelligence chiefs chose to cooperate in both fabricating and “sexing up” (as the British press puts it) intelligence to justify a prior decision for war. There is no word to describe the reaction of honest intelligence professionals to the corruption of our profession on a matter of such consequence. “Outrage” does not come close.

No, outrage does not even begin to describe the complete disregard for decency, for the truth, for peace, for America’s credibility, for the the emotions of scared Americans…

There are not even words to describe these crimes and this betrayal.

Open Thread

“Did I know sin before I knew salvation? You bet!”
-Jeff Gannon, in the June 2005 edition of Vanity Fair.

***Note: My e-mail is not working right. I received an email from my wife at 6:25 that she sent at 3:00. I have not received other mail that I know has been sent to me. So, if you sent me an email, and I didn’t get it, please be patient. Once I get librarylil’s GMAIL invite, I will be ditching my piece of crap Verizon account. Thanks lil!

UK Elections: Frequently Asked Questions

WHAT ARE WE VOTING FOR?

The general election will decide which party (or coalition of parties) forms the next government. There will be 646 seats in the UK Parliament’s House of Commons up for grabs – down from the current 659 because of changes to constituency boundaries.

WHEN IS THE ELECTION?
Tony Blair has announced 5 May as polling day. The last poll was 7 June 2001, with the new parliament sitting later that month. An elected parliament lasts no longer than five years, therefore this last parliament could have continued until late June 2006. An election campaign takes about four weeks, so the election could have been held in July 2006. Votes are traditionally held on Thursday, but do not have to be. Elections cannot be held on weekends or public holidays.

HOW DOES THE VOTING SYSTEM WORK?
The UK uses a First Past the Post system. To become an MP, a candidate simply has to win more votes than any rival in their constituency, not a majority of votes cast. Critics claim this means many people’s votes are “wasted” and want some kind of proportional representation, where the national share of the vote determines the number of MPs.

WHAT HAPPENS IF THE PRIME MINISTER LOSES HIS SEAT?
His party would offer up a candidate, probably the deputy prime minister, to hold the reins temporarily as a caretaker leader/prime minister. The Queen would then call the potential prime minister to Buckingham Palace to ask him whether he would form a government. The governing party would then hold a leadership election.

WHO CAN VOTE?
You must be registered to vote, be at least 18-years-old on polling day, be British or be a Commonwealth or Republic of Ireland citizen living in the UK.

WHO IS BANNED FROM VOTING?
The following are barred from voting in general elections: members of the House of Lords; convicted prisoners; anybody found guilty of election corruption within the last five years; people with learning disabilities or a mental illness who are incapable of making a reasoned judgement.

HOW DO I REGISTER TO VOTE?
It is now too late to register for this election. You can check whether you are on the electoral roll by contacting the electoral services department at your local council. Their contact details are listed on the Electoral Commission’s special website.

HOW DO I VOTE?
Those registered to vote should be sent a polling card about a week before the election, naming your polling station. You should take the card with you to vote, although it is not compulsory and other identification can be accepted.

WHAT IS ON THE BALLOT PAPER?
You will be given an officially marked ballot paper listing all the candidates in alphabetical order of surname, with the description of their party, if they have one. You place an X in the box beside your one chosen candidate.

CAN I VOTE BY POST?
Yes. The general election is not an all-postal vote like the trials held in some regions last year but you can ask for a postal vote from the electoral services department at your local council – whom you should also contact if your polling card fails to arrive. If you apply for a postal vote and then decide you would like to vote in person after all, you must take the whole of your postal voting package to the polling station in order to vote.

BBC

If you could vote, what party would you vote for? Take the poll:

Open Thread

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“Today’s report of the capture of a top Al Qaeda operative, Abu Farraj al-Libbi, represents a critical victory in the war on terror,” Mr. Bush said. “Now al-Libbi was a top general for bin Laden. He was a major facilitator and chief planner for the Al Qaeda network. His arrest removed a dangerous enemy who was a direct threat to America.”

Can someone run a Lexis search on this guy? I never heard of him.