Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Bait and Switch

This is how Bush does it.

Private meetings

When Howard Dean met in private with a Vermont energy group, the participants were identified. The outcome of the hardball horse-trading that went on in that meeting was notable.

The task force's work resulted in Vermont having the first utility in the country to meet energy efficiency standards. It also freed the state's utilities from their deal with a Canadian power company, Hydro Quebec, that had left them near bankruptcy but passed as much as 90 percent of those costs to consumers. Utility shareholders also suffered some losses.

Both consumers and utilities benefited from Dean's negotiations. Who benefited from the Cheney task force?

Furthermore, what is right here? If secret meetings are OK, lay off Dean. If not, go after Cheney.

Actually, this episode shows how Dean has proven that he can get difficult things accomplished. That and a balanced budget, too.

Wished I'd said that

But Bernard Chazelle said it. A concise summarization of the deficiencies of the Bush II administration. Have to keep this as a reference.

"In a mere three years, President Bush has compiled a record of disasters that Fidel could only envy. While cutting taxes for the rich, starving out federal programs for the poor, dismantling environmental protections, riding roughshod over civil liberties, and running the largest budget deficit in history, his administration has pursued a 'law of the jungle' brand of foreign policy fueled by overt paranoia and an imperious sense of omnipotence. Its shrill, threatening rhetoric, relentlessly echoed by a gang of media goons, has coarsened public discourse and alienated friends and allies.

At home, Bush has stoked the fears of a public traumatized by 9/11 and encountered rare success preaching an 'us-against-them' Weltanschauung soaked in self-righteousness. Dissent has been equated with lack of patriotism, illegal detentions have gone unchallenged, and racial profiling has been given new life. In the run-up to the war, international disapproval met with sophomoric tantrums ('freedom fries, anyone?') and vindictive hissy fits (canceled exchange programs with French high schools): hardly America's finest hour. "

The System Worked

All those folks gunning for the US cattle industry and the USDA may have to put those revolvers back into the holsters. It looks like the "animal feed" rule put into place in 1997 may have actually worked.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Mickey Kaus has a poser of a question


"..P.S.: If Ickes runs an ad Dean doesn't like, and Dean then gives a public press conference where he says 'That ad isn't very helpful to us,' and Ickes pulls the ad, is that illegal 'coordination' between Dean and an 'independent' group? If it isn't, how much more 'coordination' do you need? If it is, aren't you in effect muzzling an actual presidential candidate's actual speech on a highly-relevant issue?.."

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Now It's a Scandal

Republican SOP. Only this time they really messed up. What's up with quality control these days?

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Warning: Sharp Mind at Work

Paul Krugman:

"These days, everything old is new again. Income is once again concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite, and money rules politics to an extent not seen since the Gilded Age. The Iraq war bears an eerie resemblance to the Spanish-American war. (There was never any evidence linking Spain to the Maine's demise.) And Citizen Kane is back, in the form of an incestuous media-political complex."


Why do snowflakes tend to have a six-sided symmetry? It relates back to the geometry of the humble water molecule.

"Snow forms when water vapor condenses into a crystal. Water molecules come in a 'V' shape, with an oxygen atom at the vertex and two hydrogen atoms forming the arms at an angle of about 104 degrees apart, close to the angle that the sides of a hexagon make with each other.

So when the first water molecules link up they naturally form what Dr. Libbrecht calls a 'puckered hexagon.' As more water molecules float by to join them, they build up a lattice of six-sided segments."

Monday, December 22, 2003

Bush Tort reform

The stats say that justification Bush gives for tort reform is thoroughly bogus.

Options in Iraq

Philip Gourevitch of The New Yorker on Iraq:

"For now, we are in Iraq because the President and his most influential advisers wanted to go to war there. Having made a misleading case for the war, the Bush team drastically mismanaged the crucial early period of the occupation, and has recently responded to the Iraqi insurgency by scrapping its original plan for political revitalization in favor of a hastier schedule of "

... "The President cannot afford to lose Iraq. What is less obvious, with the guerrillas setting the agenda, is what the price would be to win it."

A Bushed Budget

Maxspeak on Bush budget options,

"The Bush administration says spending discipline can forestall the projected deficits. The fact is that high and growing deficits remain in the cards even with extraordinary spending restraint. Without tax increases or politically unpalatable service cuts, the only source of savings is a gigantic, wholly improbable 75 percent cut in so-called 'discretionary spending' -- the kind of spending used to finance rockets to the moon.

Of course, Congress just added a new entitlement -- the drug benefit. Unless they opt to pay for it by reducing benefits for the tens of millions of baby boomers who will be retiring soon, the only alternative is tax increases."

Friday, December 19, 2003

Lifelike digitized soldiers in LOTR

When the simulations were constructed for the special effects armies in Jackson's Lord of the Rings, he wanted each character to behave as if it had a mind of its own. So over 200,000 computerized agents were constructed in such a way that each one reacted individually to those around them and the enemy in front of them. But there was a problem.

"'For the first two years, the biggest problem we had was soldiers fleeing the field of battle,' Taylor said.

'We could not make their computers stupid enough to not run away.'"

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Journey of Man

I was watching an interesting show on PBS the other day with the above title. By tracking genetic markers on the Y-chromosome a researcher was able to build a plausible narrative for when the various human migrations populated the planet.

Long ago in Africa there was a revolution in the human population. While all humans were hunter/gatherers, a new type of hunter emerged. It's difficult to determine whether it was a new way of thinking or a new way of communicating was the key element since language and thought patterns are so closely entwined. Whichever the case, this new hunter had advanced deductive skills and used those to become a tracker as well. By exercising his deductive powers, this new hunter could read animal tracks and traces and successfully hunt down prey that he had not even seen. Those same deductive powers brought about an advance in hunting technology that allowed him to set aside the heavy, high-maintenance stone weapons in favor of more portable and longer-range bone-tipped weapons. These techniques and this technology has been preserved by the Bushmen of South Africa. As it turns out , the purist, unmutated form of the Y-chromosome markers is also found in the Bushmen. They are the direct descendants of that ancient African race that gave rise to every human population on Earth. They are unique in that theirs is the only language that incorporates clicking sounds.

The researcher theorizes that at some point humans divided. One group kept the clicking language and another group that was going to eventually spawn the global migration lost the clicking sounds. That is why the !Kung language is so absolutely unique. Every other language comes from a completely different branch of the tree.

Between 45,000 and 50,000 years ago the world went into a glaciation cycle that brought severe drought to previously lush areas of Africa. This event forced humans (who were indigenious only to Africa at the time) to migrate to new territories. A portion of the non-clicking group headed up the East African coast to the Arabian peninsula and beyond.

Interestingly enough the next place the early African marker shows up is in the Aborigines of Australia. All traces of the migration that brought the Africans to Australia 45,000 years ago are gone or buried under the Indian Ocean. At the time of the migration the sea level was much lower than it in now. The Africans appear to have preferred a coastal environment so whatever they left behind is now miles out to sea. It seems that later migrations overran the older coastal peoples of Arabia and India. Only the relative isolation of Australia after the glaciation recedes and the sea levels rise prevents those migrations from washing over the Abos also. However the ancient markers found in the Abos can also be found among the Tamils of Southern India and Sri Lanka indicating that the early African diaspora passed through there.

Again at around 40,000 years ago there is another push out of Africa. By this time the people carry some distinctively different genetic markers than their predecessors. And this time they are inland dwellers rather than coastal dwellers. This new migration ends up in Central Asia. From the point they spread out in all directions. To China, to India, to Indochina. When the glaciers recede in Europe, it is populated from the pool of people in central Asia. The racial label of Caucasian is actually quite accurate. And eventually the Central Asians make their way to the Americas.

Less Spam?

I don't know about you but ever since they arrested that guy in North Carolina for spamming, my spam load seems to have dropped by 70%.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Radioactive Potassium May Be Major Heat Source In Earth's Core

Recent research points to an additional nuclear heating source in the Earth's core.

As an aside, I wonder if the greenies who are generally opposed to nuclear energy actually realize that geothermal energy is nothing more than a by-product of heat released by radioactive decay.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Albright on Bush

She gives him what-fer. And does it well.

Forget the South

A strategy for a democratic victory that doesn't need Florida.

Instead of pandering to (as Howard Dean famously put it) ''guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks,'' thus alienating blacks and liberals, a Democratic nominee like Dean could aim his message at Americans who might actually vote for him.

Campaign Finance

Courtesy of TAPPED here is an interesting proposal for taking the big money donors out of the campaign contribution game.

"About 100 million voters cast ballots in the 2000 election. If they also had a chance to 'vote' with their 50 patriot dollars, they would have sent $5 billion flowing into the political marketplace, overwhelming the $3 billion private dollars spent by all candidates for all federal offices. Even if no further restrictions were imposed on private fundraising, patriot dollars would enable ordinary Americans to reclaim a large role in shaping the course of campaigns."

FBI's new rules

It will be interesting to see how the more invasive rules play out over the next few years.
"the FBI, unhindered by the restrictions of the past, will conduct many more searches and wiretaps that are subject to oversight by a secret intelligence court rather than regular criminal courts, officials said. Civil liberties groups and defense lawyers predict that more innocent people will be the targets of clandestine surveillance."

After the number of innocent people who have been confined at Guantanamo becomes more widely known there will be an eventual backlash at the current excesses. Then the FBI will most likely lose a great many surveillance tools.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Who's Afraid of Howard Dean?

From the DU. I got a real kick out of this.

The reason a Dean Presidency would be a huge disaster for the current leadership of the party is subtle but otherwise unconcealed. One need only take note of the most recent round of emails sent out by the Dean campaign to understand the danger. With an increasingly unobstructed path to the Democratic nomination ahead of him, Howard is holding out a helping hand to Congressmen in potential trouble in 2004. His activist base, unprecedented in terms of volunteer power, is likely to make a Dean victory long on coattails. The resulting shift in power could suddenly and permanently alter the face of the Democratic Party, and of course any Democrat loyal to Dean is going to be eager to toss the New Democrats out and install their own people in leadership roles.

That's why Lieberman, Daschle and the other DLC heavyweights seem so often to be singing from the same hymnal as Karl Rove and the RNC. In a sense, their interests are convergent - all of them are terrified by the idea of Howard Dean winning the Democratic nomination.

...the campaign to destroy Muskie has remained the gold standard for political smear tactics ever since.

That campaign was engineered by one Donald Segretti (who wound up doing time for distributing illegal campaign materials) and his protégé, one Karl Rove.

It's worth noting that at no time during Rove's debut caper, which was clearly designed to throw the Democratic nomination to George McGovern, did he or anyone else in Nixon's campaign say publicly "Gee, we'd sure love to run against George McGovern." You see, that would have been really dumb.

So, Dear Reader, let us consider two possibilities. Either Karl Rove has developed a Dubyaesque case of the deep-down stupids since sabotaging the 1972 Democratic Primary, or he's trying to do the same thing to Howard Dean that he did to Ed Muskie so many years ago. I leave the final decision up to you.


Get Griles:

"When the oil, coal and gas industries poured millions of dollars into George W. Bush's presidential campaign, J. Steven Griles was exactly what they were paying for. He's a perfect embodiment of the Bush administration's 'never met an energy company we didn't like' stance -- and its revolving-door connection between an industry eager to slip free of government rules and a government eager to betray the public good. But then it's no surprise someone like Griles would receive a warm embrace from the Bush team; after all, it is packed to the brim with energy-industry insiders -- from National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice to Vice President Dick Cheney to President Bush himself."

New Ice Age Averted

The development of agriculture 8000 years ago may have kept the world from dropping into another ice age. It seems to have caused an anomalous rise in the methane and CO2 levels when they should have been decreasing. Furthermore, when plague struck Europe the human die-off resulted in forests expanding, a greenhouse gas reduction, and then the "little ice age" of 1300.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The ex-gay movement ain't

If the leaders of the movement can't change why should we expect anyone else to? This movement is dead but it just doesn't know it yet.

"A large section of Besen's book details scandals involving ex-gay leaders who are discovered to be not quite as ex-gay as they seem. In addition to the Paulk scandal, the book tells the story of Gary Cooper and Michael Bussee, the men who helped found Exodus International and then left the ex-gay movement (and their wives) after they fell in love with each other. Besen also discusses Colin Cook, founder of Homosexuals Anonymous, whose career ended in disgrace when it was discovered that he was having sexual encounters with his male clients."

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Home Runs

The science is in. We now know what it takes to hit it over the fence.

"The most important factor in hitting a homer was the speed of the bat when it hits the ball, Hubbard said. The faster, the better."