Friday, April 29, 2005

Thursday, April 28, 2005

NASA explores 90-day manned trip to Mars

Essentially its like a railroad line in space. It takes beams from generators at both ends of the trip. One can achieve high speeds out and back without carrying large quantities of fuel. Interesting.

Desktop nuclear fusion demonstrated

Cold fusion is real. But it only looks cold.

A New Type of Solvent

These ionic liquids show some interesting features.
Scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) report* that flow properties for a relatively new class of alternative solvents called ionic liquids are extremely sensitive to tiny amounts of water. For example, for one of these solvents, just a 0.01 percent increase in water dissolved into a sample, caused a 1 percent decrease in flow resistance--a 100-fold effect. The finding should be helpful in the design of new industrial processes such as chemical separations that are both more efficient and more environmentally friendly.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

GOP offers to scrap House ethics rules

Hastert blinked. The impasse that has been holding up the DeLay investigation seems to be dissolving. But what is the Lapdog up to?
In a letter to the speaker dated April 12 but kept private, Pelosi also called on the Illinois Republican to urge Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., the panel’s chairman, to abandon plans to name his chief as staff director for the committee.

“I cannot imagine a staffing arrangement more damaging to the nonpartisan character of the committee,” she wrote in the letter.
Update: Thursday's TCH reports that Hastings has withdrawn the appointment. The staff director will be appointed by bipartisan consensus as has been done previously.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

When Democrats push back

Just think. If the Republicans were not in power and trying to bankrupt the government and destroy Social Security, this is the kind of legislation we could be discussing. Wouldn't that be a breath of fresh air!

Monday, April 25, 2005

Pacific Northwest Portal

Please take a click on the Pacific Northwest Portal website. A truly marvelous place that has graciously included this humble blog on its list alongside some truly fine ones.

Prey together, stay together

Jeanne has the word on Khaled El-Masri. Arrested by mistaken identity and brutally tortured in various countries and Gitmo. If true, someone should be impeached, then imprisoned.

And along the same vein, we have Phil Carter on the Abu Ghraib investigation.
"The latest Army IG report clearing senior officers of wrongdoing in connection with Abu Ghraib ignores centuries of norms within the military profession and undermines the legal doctrine of command responsibility"

Filibuster proposal

Tom Curry recalls how past filibuster impasses were resolved. Instead of making threats to destroy the option, past Senates learned to horse-trade. "We'll let some of your nominess through if you let some of ours through." It looks like the real problem is that the majority cannot stomach even the least bit of compromise.

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

This week marks when the last American helicopter left Vietnam. How long is it going to take before the same happens in Iraq?

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Ya gotta love this

A Kevin Drum post.
"Everitt Middle School guidance counselor Margo Lucero decided to make a wee change to the Pledge of Allegiance on Wednesday. Here it is:

One nation, under 'your belief system'....

And so the worm turns. After all, if it's OK for biology teachers to decline to teach evolution and for pharmacists to refuse to dispense certain medications, why shouldn't teachers have the right to modify the pledge for reasons of personal conscience?

It's quite a little rabbit hole we have here, don't we?"

Powell opposes Bolton

By providing the dissenters some cover, Powell may have confirmed the death of the appointment.
"That may well be fatal to Bolton's nomination. The foothold Bolton's supporters have in this fight is their contention that the only reason Bolton's in trouble is that Democrats are trying to take him down to score political points. Indeed, President Bush made that argument just yesterday. But Powells now-public lobbying knocks that argument right out of the park.

Republican senators looking to deny the White House this nomination need some partisan cover; and Powell just gave it to them."

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Doc Hastings Tries

To his credit Hastings is not just sitting on his hands in light of the allegations against DeLay. But as long as he plays within the DeLay-protection rules it will only be for show. Doc has an opportunity to put the teeth back into the House Ethics Committee and make it genuinely effective against wrong-doers in both parties. But will he act? We will just have to stay tuned. If he doesn't, he shows himself to be the pantomiming lapdog I've always expected him to be. If he does, my respect for him will certainly go up a few notches. Perhaps his choice depends on how vulnerable he feels in the next election. If he acts to bring an investigation of DeLay he will steal away one of the most effective weapons a Democratic challenger could use against him. Furthermore, he will gain a grudging respect for being a real player from most everyone in his district. His Democratic predecessor, Sid Magnuson, had similar respect from his political antagonists and was able to stay in office as long as he desired it.

Update: At least Doc has opened the investigation. Yet to be seen is the degree to which it can be pursued given the "protect-DeLay" rules that are in place.

Bolton like Putin

Steve Clemons notes that Bush (hswib) has used his famous "eyes" test on Bolton.
"This is getting interesting. Didn't Bush also look into Putin's eyes and see a good man?

Bush's team is trying to make this about White House infallibility. It's sad that the White House can't step back and study the many reasons why there is so much national indigestion about the Bolton nomination.

As I said yesterday, three weeks more of investigation and analysis will be painful for the nomination of John Bolton -- and I'm sure that those concerned have every interest in making sure that the issues are clear."

John Snow Tells the Truth

For a member of this administration (hwsib) the headline alone is worthy of note. Joshua Micah Marshall links to the story with this comment.
The logic of that statement points to only one conclusion: the deficits the administration has run up with upper-income tax cuts will be reduced by benefit cuts in Social Security.

It's not about strengthening Social Security; it's about cleaning up the mess created by the president's tax cuts.

I wonder how long Rove can put up with Snow.

A Confirmation of Bush (hswib) Cluelessness

As usual it's difficult to tell whether he is intentionally lying to us or just hopelessly clueless. Can't he tell the difference between someone who has indeed established a distinguished career and someone who is an opportunistic sycophant? This appointment is just too easy to criticize. I think Bush (hswib) may have finally achieved his Peter Principle level of incompetence. Everything he has done lately has shown that.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The DeLay Judicial Attack continues

It continues in the same vein that was predicted before, the ol' "international law" canard. Just as Pearlstein predicted. She also smartly shot down the idea that the US is not subject to international law. Ignoring international law is a real slippery slope on which much more to lose than gain. But DeLay, as usual, is oblivious to that kind of pragmatism.


Scott McClellan continues to tap-dance about the Bolton appointment. The serial prevaricator even goes so far as to accuse the critics of trumping up charges against Bolton. That's rich, coming from the White House. It will be hard to refute charges when the alleged behavior is completely consistent with the man's character.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Bullies need not apply

Mark Shields does not like the Bolton nomination.
"Tell me that Bob Jones III, the president of the segregationist South Carolina university of the same name, has been nominated as chairman of the Civil Rights Commission.

Tell me that Father Dan Berrigan, the antiwar Jesuit priest, had just been named commandant of the Marine Corps or that Sir Elton John will be the new president of the Teamsters Union.

But don't tell me that the United States Senate, which likes to be called the 'the world's greatest deliberative body' will vote to confirm President Bush's pick of John Bolton to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations."

Friday, April 15, 2005

Brad DeLong on what is wrong with today's journalism

"Allen's interpretation is very a convenient interpretation for him. It is, however, a lousy way to be a journalist: journalists owe profound obligations to those of their readers who don't read past the jump, don't read carefully, and don't have a lot of background knowledge. Telling an exoteric lie to the many and the esoteric truth to only a few doesn't cut it."

The Height of Irony

Not so long ago we went to war against a country that was ruled by religious fundamentalists. That country oppressed its people and provided cover for perpetrators of high crimes. We removed them from power.

Now it seems that exactly the same kind of people are having some success to do it here at home. They are seeking to turn the clock backwards on the march of liberty and are themselves tainted with numerous high crimes.

Boltin' Bolton

This guy has got to go.
"As a maligned whistleblower, I've learned firsthand the lengths Mr. Bolton will go to accomplish any goal he sets for himself. Truth flew out the window. Decency flew out the window. In his bid to smear me and promote the interests of his client, he went straight for the low road and stayed there.

John Bolton put me through hell -- and he did everything he could to intimidate, malign and threaten not just me, but anybody unwilling to go along with his version of events. His behavior back in 1994 wasn't just unforgivable, it was pathological.

I cannot believe that this is a man being seriously considered for any diplomatic position, let alone such a critical posting to the UN. Others you may call before your committee will be able to speak better to his stated dislike for and objection to stated UN goals. I write you to speak about the very character of the man."
You can see the quality of our current leadership by the quality of people they seek to appoint to high office.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Tort Burden?

It's a real shame that the actual tort costs and numbers are NOT on the side of the reformers.
• As one in fourteen Americans live in Texas, if the Texas experience was repeated in each of the fifty states, the total cost to businesses, big and small, of the personal injury tort system would be on the order of $30 billion per year, not the $88 billion claimed by the Chamber of Commerce as the cost to small business alone.

• In 2002, Texas had a gross state product of about $742 billion. The personal injury costs to Texas businesses and professionals in 2002 represented a little more than a quarter of one percent of the Texas GSP.

• With a price tag of about $2.1 billion, the cost of personal injury cases to businesses works out to about $95 per Texan per year. In 2001, per capita personal income in Texas was $28,581. Tort costs to businesses amounts to about one third of one percent of per capita income, or about a quarter per day per Texan. If you imposed all of the costs of personal injury on the victims and gave defendants immunity from damages for personal injuries, and if those businesses passed the savings along to consumers, the average Texan would save enough money to take a round trip on the Dallas bus system once a week or so.

And once again another plum issue taken up by the right seems to have been fabricated out of whole cloth to solve a problem that doesn't really exist.

Real Public Servants

With John Edwards gracefully negotiating a course change on the bankruptcy issue we also see Jay Inslee demonstrating similar grace. It's nice to know that there are politicos that have better standards than DeLay and Doc.

Getting It Done

While the administration (hswib) has seen support for it pet project erode, John Kerry is quietly getting some of his campaign promises fulfilled. It helps when your ideas are good common-sense ones instead of self-serving crackpot ones.

Fab it yourself

This type of technology is how current third-world countries could eventually leapfrog the economic superpowers of today. It may even play out that the days of mass production of standardized objects are numbered. Instead the coin-of-the-realm could become the designs rather than the objects themselves if custom, on-site fabrication becomes viable.

Not Much Hope

I heard Doc on the news last night extolling the virtues of relieving wealthy children from the burden of paying taxes on the estates they inherit. He's not only a lapdog. He's their bitch lapdog.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Nuclear Option? Bring it On

Yglesias argues that liberals stand to gain over the long run in a filibuster-proof Senate.
"The liberal difficulty is what it always has been -- getting new stuff passed into law. The public's instinctive skepticism toward novelty is re-enforced by the fact that the American political system puts into place an uncommonly large number of veto points at which legislation may be blocked. New bills must pass two separate legislative houses, each representing different sorts of constituencies; acquire a presidential signature; and pass muster with the Supreme Court. The filibuster merely enhances this tendency, already an outlier in the democratic world. It's no coincidence that the United States is also an outlier in terms of having a relatively underdeveloped welfare state. The many sticking points in the legislative process were deliberately designed by the Founders to bias the political system in favor of conservatism. Speaking ill of the Founders is, of course, not something done in polite American political discourse, but such biases are nothing liberals should embrace."

Building the case for healthcare reform

The statistics are there.
"even America's largely private system costs the government more per capita than do the Swedish, British, French, Spanish, Dutch, etc. systems. America's health care system is so inefficient that only the outlier cases of Iceland and Norway wind up paying more in taxes for their health care than we do.

And that, of course, is just the direct cost in taxes. As Kieran's post showed, the difference in overall cost is just enormous. And on top of that you've got to consider the permanent drain on the economy created by an employer-based health care system that reduces labor flexibility and a tax code that distorts spending and compensation priorities in favor of ever-greater health care spending."

A Healthcare Solution

Based on the comments on this Kevin Drum post it sounds like the best form of healthcare is an airplane ticket to France. I wonder how long it will be before the suffering masses get wise to this.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Doc's 15 minutes

I'm really looking forward to how the honorable(?) Mr. Hastings handles the DeLay matter. We all want to know whether he really is the docile Bassett hound he appears to be or whether he actually has any junkyard dog in there somewhere.

Negroponte Appointment

By the forwarding of an appointment for Negroponte, the bush (hswib) administration illustrates once again their complete dearth of moral values. When comparing the activities of Negroponte in Honduras with those of his predecessor, the turpitude is that much more stark.

Explosions In Space May Have Initiated Ancient Extinction On Earth

While the universe is large, it is not particularly life-friendly. A nearby gamma ray burst has become a candidate for the Ordivician extinction. Simulations show that a burst only 10 seconds long could have destroyed the ozone layer and resulted in both UV-radiation-induced extinction and climate change.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Carbon dioxide role in past climate revealed

Carbon dioxide has been shown to cause big problems in the geological past. It stands to reason that if we allow the rise to continue we could see a major extinction ourselves.

Kennewick Man in the News

An attempt is being made in Congress to give modern tribes jurisdiction over remains that have no cultural connection to them.

Back at last

My community theater gig has now opened so the rehearsal schedule is not near as hectic. Regular posting resumes.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Long Emergency

It may be closer than we think. Some speculations on how our world is going to have to change when we get beyond the oil-peak. On the other side oil supplies will become increasingly dear. How are we going to adapt?
"Events are propelling us. We are in for a rough ride through uncharted territory."

Where do they all come from?

Given the rate of mutation, the large numbers of species amoung some classes of creatures has been something of a mystery. Now, better understanding how similar DNA-derived proteins can be used in a variety of ways explain how rapid diversification after an extinction is achieved.

Math whiz fights terror with smarts

How do you know if you are winning in an asymmetric conflict? Applied mathematics

Thermoelectric Cobaltate Thin Films On Silicon

This is another of those new technologies that has the potential to have far reaching consequences.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

This is really cool

New techniques can now detect chemical signatures more sensitively and with more discrimination than a dog's nose.

Note to gun enthusiasts: This may also go positive if you have fired a weapon recently.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


I'm currently at a posting hiatus because I'm in rehearsal for a local theatrical production that is opening this Friday. We were a week late getting into our theater so the schedule is brutal. I'll be able to get a portion of my life back once we open.

Meanwhile I've been able to collect lots of good stuff that I just don't have time to craft into coherent postings. When time allows I'll be getting some of it out.

What a Little Moon Dust Can Do

Any long-term human presence on the moon is going to have serious problems. Without any water-base erosive processes lunar dust is pretty much like microscopic razor blades.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Rule of Law

The next battleground in the war to destroy our society is becoming apparent.
Like the bogeyman critique of “judicial activism,” “foreign law” seems to have become the latest stand-in straw man for those who aim to cast fundamentally political opposition as a principled objection. It is hard not to conclude that vocal opponents of “foreign law” are driven less by any real threat to U.S. legal sovereignty than by the fear that even a conservative judge might embrace a legal rule with which they disagree. But that danger is also long known to the United States; it is the necessary price of the rule of law.

Warning to desperate housewives

This article speaks only to the use off cell phones for modified nanny-cam purposes. But the possiblities go far beyond that. Private party survelliance has the potential to be anywhere conducted by anyone. It seems like fertile territory for all kinds of nefarious activities.

The reality of the evolution of man

Give up your ideas of there being some sort of lower to higher progression. Current evidence indicates that the current dominance of Homo Sapiens is just the luck of the draw.
...only 30,000 years ago there may have been four distinct human species walking the planet. Not one, as there is now, not two, as was thought to be the case up until very recently ( H. neaderthalensis and H. sapiens ), but certainly three, and very possibly four human species walking the earth at the same time. And yet over the next 15,000 years all but one of them died out.

One could not wish for a clearer indication of the role of chance in the survival of our species. If things had gone only slightly differently in the recent past then modern humanity might not have been represented by H. sapiens , but instead by H. neaderthalensis or by H. floresiensis or possibly even H. erectus .

Or perhaps there would have been no representative at all.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Resorting to Legal Combat

The administration (hswib) has raised the specter of terrorists using our own court system against us. But maybe that's not such a bad idea.
But ticking-bomb scenarios exist in Hollywood for the most part; they should not drive policy. In the real world, lawfare hardly poses the overwhelming concern that the Bush administration claims.

Truth be told, we have every reason to embrace lawfare, for it is vastly preferable to the bloody, expensive, and destructive forms of warfare that ravaged the world in the 20th century. First, lawfare has the obvious advantage of being safer than conventional warfare: I would far prefer to have motions and discovery requests fired at me than incoming mortar or rocket-propelled grenade fire. Likewise, lawfare rarely generates the collateral damage of conventional warfare. In recent war zones such as Bosnia, Chechnya, and Iraq, the cumulative civilian death toll stretches into the hundreds of thousands.

New Lessons from the Old World

By necessity as well as temperment Europeans have developed anti-sprawl models of municipal development. It would be a good thing if Americans could learn something from them.

Human blood cells coaxed to produce insulin

Another ray of hope for diabetics.

Metallic glass

Occasionall materials science comes up with amazing stuff that has the potential to change everything.

A pattern of HIV Immunity

10 percent of Europeans are safe from HIV infection. Why? Because of the Plague. There are two ideas here. One is that the Black Death was not necessarily bubonic plague but some other haemorrhagic virus. The other is that a mutatione that conferred immunity to these plagues also confers immunuty to HIV because both diseases have similar points of entry into the immune system.

Taking The Terror Out Of Terror

Some bright characters at Sandia have some good ideas about to fight terror. Preemptive attacks on countries of convenience isn't one of them.

'Tree-power' Could Be Future Energy Source

In Scandanavia it has been shown that forests are truly renewable energy sources.
True, burning the residue emits carbon dioxide, but as most of the harvested forest mass would be used for lumber, furniture and paper, there would still be a net sequestration of carbon.

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Real Malpractice Story

In Texas at least:
Since 1988 the number of large claims was stable, the number of small claims declined, the number of paid claims was stable, the average payout per claim was stable, and total payouts were stable. In other words, whatever it was that's caused malpractice premiums to skyrocket, it hasn't been any actual change in malpractice awards against doctors.

The Lautenberg Letter

Properly, Lautenberg rebukes DeLay over Schiavo remarks.

Fact free Hume

Brit Hume needs a new job because he is one lousy reporter.

To Err Is Human

Fred Kaplan posits that if people are going to screw, no organization changes are going to fix it.

Schaivo, a last word

One time and hopefully the only time.

Who Gets Held to Account?

A roundup of commentary on the Iraq Intel report. The administration (hswib) uses the arms-crossed-with-pointed-fingers coat-of-arms. Not MY fault!

Not Intelligent, and Surely Not Science

"Intelligent design" is not all that intelligent.