Monday, December 31, 2007

A Truly Short Senate Session

The game-plan to block recess appointments by having pro forma sessions is in play. The Senate had a 12-second session today. This keeps the Senate technically in session instead of on a recess until January 3. Because there is no recess, Bush (hswib) can not make any of those pesky recess appointments.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Torture is good for something

But it isn't what you might think.

Climatic Chain Reaction

55 million years ago there was a massive global warming excursion that started with an increase in atmospheric CO2 much like what we see today. There was a melting of the methane hydrates in the deep ocean that pushed the greenhouse effect even higher.

The moral to the story is that it has happened before and it looks very much like it might be happening again.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dark energy a furphy

The dark energy problem may have been solved. In this potentially a watershed paper, the need for dark energy is resolved when we take the lumpy nature of the universe into account. Instead we are left with the simple time-warping caused by matter.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Education Better Than Abstinence

It's been proven that abstinence education fails miserably. On the other hand sex education actually delays intercourse and promotes safer intercourse when it happens. Imagine that. All those religious zealots were wrong. Again.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Way to Change Our Party

At every recent session of by local Drinking Liberally gathering someone always expresses a sense of futility at the behavior of the Congressional Democrats. Kos makes this modest suggestion.
"Let me say this is no uncertain terms -- our ONLY ability to influence the Democratic caucus in Washington D.C. rests in our ability to defeat them in their primaries next year. No other elections are more important for purposes of our movement (as opposed to the nation as a whole) than these two."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Nuclear Site Is Breached

It looks like things are going to get tighter at work. Every time even an attempt is made to breach a nuclear facility the consequences cascade through the whole industry. But when the breach is successful like this one in South Africa, it really hits the fan.

Nuclear safeguards should always be respected. It looks like South Africa needs to get its act together.

Toshiba Builds Micro Nuclear Reactor

This may change the landscape of the nuclear power industry. We will have to what comes with Toshiba's Personal Reactor.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dino Rossi Campaign

The Dino Rossi for governor campaign swung through town last week and I had an opportunity to attend the rally. The campaign appears to be essentially based on a hate-Gregoire theme. That's understandable since these same people have a hate-Hillary circuit in their brains. Dino's talking points are all based upon trumped-up criticisms of Christine. He entitles his talking points "A Case for Change". It appears that he is hoping to cast Gregoire in a bad enough light that any change would be justified, even a change to a Republican. I expect this to play well with the party faithful since they seem genetically predisposed to deny reality. They easily deny the reality that Republican principles have been a failure at good governance. They also deny the reality that Gregoire has proven to be an effective governor.

Rossi's Case for Change starts with education. Here he cites some cherry-picked statistics that indicate the state's education system has some struggles. Yet he fails to set forth any proposal that improve things. A fact he dodges is that tax-averse school boards and voters have starved the schools so much that they are struggling to maintain the current standards much less make improvements. (keyword: Republicans are the source of the problem)

His next point is public safety. This is his code word for "let's scare everybody about sex offenders". Again he cites some carefully selected statistics but makes no counter-proposal. (keyword: scare people with crime)

Next he cites problems with foster care. Like the schools it is easy to find valid criticisms of the systems performance. And yet again Dino has no solutions (other than to change governors). I'm sure an adequate budget for DSHS wouldn't hurt but don't look for that with a Republican in charge. (keyword: say "they are bad" but don't say "we would be worse")

Then he comes to taxes. Like most Republicans Dino seems to think that governments raise taxes for no good reason and therefore taxes must be resisted at all costs. Still Dino offers plenty of criticism with no proposals. He criticizes Gregoire support for a state income tax without telling us why he thinks the convoluted B&O tax is better. I suspect he rather prefers sales taxes since they hit poor people harder than the rich folk. (keyword: taxes are bad and government should run only on credit)

And finally we have transportation. His rhetorical question of "has you traffic commute gotten better or worse?" should really fall flat for East-siders. In order to get the votes for her transportation budget Gregoire has been most generous to this part of the state. The Tri-Cities probably has twice as much state-funded pavement on the ground than it really needs today. While the delivery of major traffic solutions in the West has been slow, Dino makes no promise to speed them up. Even Dino can't lie that blatantly. (keyword: Republicans are part of the problem again)

It occurs to me that the time may be coming to replace Jim Beaver as the Kennewick mayor. His support of Dino Rossi puts his mental competence into question.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Merry Christmas! Really!

The primary source of the following information is TV channel website,

As Christians start their predictable seasonal whine about the “true meaning of Christmas” let’s take a truthful look at what that meaning actually is. The Christmas of today has its roots in ancient traditions combined with comparatively recent successful public relations campaigns. In pre-Christian Europe there were long-standing winter solstice traditions: yule logs, feasts over multiple days, nocturnal flights of Odin granting fortune or misfortune. Sound familiar? The winter was cold enough that freshly slaughtered meat would keep for extended feasting. The beer had fermented since summer and was ready for drinking. In Rome, the solstice was celebrated with Saturnalia. There was almost a month of eating and drinking along with a reversal of the social order, slaves as masters, children as parents, similar to Boxing Day in British tradition. The winter was also the time for Juvenalia, a feast for children.

Until Pope Julius I, the primary western Christian holiday was Easter. (It still is in the various eastern orthodox churches: Greek, Russian, Serbian.) But the good Pope Julius instituted the Feast of the Nativity on December 25. The feast then subsumed the various seasonal pagan and Roman festivals. Typically a “Christ’s Mass” was followed by days of feasting and drinking in a carnival atmosphere similar to Mardi Gras complete with a beggar chosen as the “Lord of Misrule”. The tradition of carolers arose from the poor who would visit the rich demanding food and drink. It was a time for the rich to “compensate” society by lavish giving to the less fortunate.

In English and American history the popularity rose and fell with the popularity of aristocracy. Oliver Cromwell canceled Christmas but it came back when Charles II was restored to the throne. With the American Revolution, Christmas was put down because it was too English.

Much of our “modern” tradition of Christmas was established in the first half of the 19th century. Christmas had become a real problem with gang rioting often breaking out in the Christmas season. Washington Irving, in The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, invented a story of traditions of mutual celebration across lines of social status. About the same time Charles Dickens did his thing with the Christmas Carol. These visions of Christmas became embedded in the popular mind. As Christmas became more family-oriented, appropriate traditions were dredged up and inserted into popular practice.

Essentially we have been inventing and reinventing Christmas ever since. Religiously oriented people added more and more scripture to the holiday. Commercial folks added more and more cutesy Santa stories and polar bear images. Sappy folks just…got sappier.

So the TRUE meaning of Christmas is just what we want to make of it. Just like it’s always been. Have a Merry Christmas and stop whining already!