Thursday, December 30, 2004

Even drug dealers are giving up on the dollar

How low can it go?
"For most products, losing international drug cartels and corrupt Third World dictators as customers would seem to be a desirable outcome. But these guys represent part of our long-standing and faithful base. If you think pundits are fretting about the slumping dollar now, just imagine what might happen if we start to lose the arms dealers."

Wampum: "Natural" disasters

Wampum talks about how indigineous peoples were able to avoid natural disasters by not being dumb enough to hang around full-time on the coast.

And it turns out that the tribes on the Adaman and Nicobar Islands have done just that.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Special evolution

The DNA evidence seems to indicate that human brain evolution an extraordinary. When it got started it bestowed such enormous advantage that it became a major selective pressure. And perhaps it still is.


A potential Alzheimer's treatment may be only as far away as your spice rack.

Major advance made in transparent electronics

This looks like it might be a semiconductor materials revolution. Imagine having circuitry that is clear and flexible.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Iraq 2004 Looks Like Vietnam 1966

How many of us knew this was coming? And could just watch helplessly.

A Whitewashed Earthsea

I'm going to have to get caught up on my Ursula reading, cause the TV program doesn't measure up.

More on the Bush (hswib) strategy

You can afford to be a one-trick pony as long as the trick keeps working.
"The expected Social Security shortfall has been a perennial domestic concern in much the same way that Hussein's intransigence with arms inspectors was a perennial foreign-policy concern: From the White House to Congress to think tanks, policy makers worried about it, but presidents (including Bush) felt no immediate need to deal with it.

Then Bush decided to focus on it, and suddenly a long-term concern became intense and immediate.

Much as the Iraq war was preceded by speeches designed to show Hussein in the most threatening light, the Bush economic summit seemed designed to dominate a slow news week with the idea that failing to deal with Social Security now will hurt the national economy."
Oh, and the fact that we have a deficit problem brought on by relaxed taxation of the rich that is beginning to show up in the falling dollar is just not that important.


It looks like they are going to hold off on the new wave of dollar-busting tax giveaways so they can concentrate on the fine butchering of Social Security.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Asteroid Alert

It's a-comin'.
"An asteroid that has a small chance of hitting Earth in the year 2029 was upgraded to an unprecedented level of risk Friday, Dec. 24. Scientists still stress, however, that odds are further observations will show the space rock won't be on a collision course with the planet."

Merry Christmas from Mosul

In addition to our troops there are Iraqi civilians in Mosul struggling to have a normal life. But even in the midst of that struggle they take the time to wish their readers a Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Save Social Security

As the Bush (hswib) administration begins a campaign to destroy Social Security, there is no organized force to stop them. This looks like a job for Joe Trippi's grass roots. Time for those far-flung DFA groups to roll-up their sleeves and get to work.

Don't drill there

A new Zogby poll says Majority of Americans Oppose Arctic Refuge Drilling".

Abuse of Detainees at Guantanamo Bay

Sadly, the evidence of abuse and torture of Gitmo detainees just isn't news with this administration. They believe they have a carte blanche to do just whatever they please.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

The news from Mosul

As seen by the civilian non-combatants. Bomber gets delayed while setting bomb as a patrol passes. Then bomb and bomber explode while a schoolbus passes. The Stryker patrol dismounts and start shooting wildly. Schoolkids catch bullets.

And this is from someone who is generally sympathetic to the American cause. This just keeps getting uglier. It's too bad that this administration is not competent to make a factual assessment of the state of the war effort. If it's bad news they won't say so. If it's good news you can afford to believe them.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Basic Bush (hswib) Hypocrisy

And grown up people who should know better find the level of it to be surprising! Of course, LO is not surprised in the least.
Of course, it is Bush that has rightly said that the way to truly defeat radical Islamic terrorism is to bring about freedom in the Muslim world.

But those are mere words. In reality, Bush has been more than happy to myopically prop up dictators in the name of fighting terrorism.

So it is quite explicable that he would suppress a UN report that has the potential to advance Arab democracy.

It's high time that reporters and Dem politicians stop the charade that Bush's foreign policy doctrines have anything to do with the spread of freedom, and start calling him on his rank hypocrisy.

A program with a problem

Evidently I missed the fact that the recent missile defense test was a another bust. Fred Kaplan weighs in. But I'm confident that people who worry about growing Social Security benefits have no problem throwing more money at a system that would provide little added security...even if it did actually work.

What the Kerik story tells us about Bush (hswib)

Josh Marshall finds the insight from an article in the Times.
"It's a great example -- almost a morality play -- of one of the key flaws in the president's leadership. He gets clear first impressions and makes judgments based on instinct. And then there's almost no follow-up, no challenging instinct with the harsh light of facts. And certainly no accountability. More often than the not, or course, the instinct turns out to just be wrong. As with Iraq, and Putin's soul and now Kerik."

Saturday, December 18, 2004

American Cowardice

The reason our best and bravest are experiencing the horror that is Iraq is because American leaders are cowards. I am including leaders in both political parties in this grouping. As bad as that is, it appears that our cowardice will continue to bring insecurity and conflict as long as we let it guide us.

Real security comes from having a strong offense but in only using it where it is completely justified. Anything else brings insecurity. It's not the fact of our strength that provides security but the fear that we will use it if attacked. It's that fear that gives potential attackers pause. It is their fear that keeps us safe. The trick is to keep the shield of that fear in place.

But there also must be a carrot to go along with this stick if security is to be assured. Just as our ability to counter is important, a practice of reticence about loosing the dogs of war gives those who may be sitting on the fence a reason to choose the path of peace. If they are afraid that we may attack for spurious or illegitimate reasons they have little inducement to behave well.

This has been clearly demonstrated in our recent history. There was little opposition in the Muslim mainstream when we went after Al Qaeda and their friends the Taliban. We suffered the first blow and our justification was broadly supported. But when we pulled a preemptive invasion of Iraq, we proved to the rest of the world that we could no longer be trusted to behave with restraint. This has increased the distrust in the rest of the world and withered any inducements for them to play nice with us. As a result we are less secure, not more so.

Many US leaders displayed their cowardice when talk of a smoking gun mushroom cloud came out. Even if it were not as baseless as it patently was, a real mushroom cloud would have removed all legitimacy from our opposition and given it all to us. Only in that sort of environment, with the terrorists being pariahs throughout the world, would we have a decent chance of bringing the terrorism to an end. They would quickly find that there would genuinely be no place to hide.

As it is now, I truely expect that the terrorism threat will go on for at least another generation until more of the country comes to understand it.

We must also understand that those in power now don't have much of an incentive to end the war. As long as they can point to terror as a threat, they can justify their increase in power as a response to that threat. And that's what they really want, more power. Not security. Insecurity furthers their ultimate goal.

So paradoxically, if we are to have greater security, we need to learn to live at greater apparent risk. We need to be like the black belt who has great skill but uses it little. He lives a life of freedom, security, and peace because he is trusted to keep his devastating abilities in check and indeed only use them when every other effort at peace has failed. He can travel in what would otherwise be dangerous places because no one has anything to gain by provoking him and everything to lose. We need to be brave and suffer the first punch. Then make sure the counter punch is the last punch thrown.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Bad Group Think

Why decisions made by the Bush (hswib) White House are dumber than the people who work there.:
"I would suggest that if you toss into this mix a strong social imperative to demonstrate loyalty to the group, the polarization will likely be even worse. This is how we ended up with an Iraq policy that is much stupider than Paul Wolfowitz, or Don Rumsfeld, or Dick Cheney (none of whom is stupid at all). And it's how we're going to end up with domestic policies that are stupider than Karl Rove, Andy Card, and budget director Josh Bolton."
I'm really looking forward to this.

Interesting Precedent

This administration seems determined to do whatever it damn well pleases even when the Supreme Court has ruled against it. One would almost think that laws exist to benefit the powerful and may be simply disregarded if they become inconvenient. God save King George (hswib).

Born Suckers

Wall Street or Las Vegas, same difference. Only the house wins. The problem is that we are made that way.
"The reality, of course, is that only a tiny handful of people are dedicated and talented enough to overcome their DNA, confront the long odds, and come out ahead of the market averages, and they are as rare as world-class athletes. As for the rest of us, we may have fun trying (and this, in and of itself, is enough reason to play), but, alas, we are almost sure to lose."

Abbas calls for end of Palestinian uprising

This is a good sign. I have contended for a long time (since 2002) that the Palestinian cause would be more successful if it brought its pressure to bear non-violently.

A deep sea hydrocarbon factory

Fringe geologists have been positing for some time that there are sources of non-fossil "deep gas" in the earth. Now a mechanism has been discovered that creates methane in a non-biological process. If the process can be duplicated, we can synthesize methane and there may continue to be life after the fossel fuels run out. Or we may be able to tap the earth's crust more efficiently and get a virtually inexhaustible supply of gas.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Stem Cell Dodges

Some new techniques have been hypothesized that get around orthodox Catholic objections to embryonic stem cells. One is to make an embryo that can't survive. Another is to make an incomplete embryo to begin with. Hmmm.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Ezra gets it

The Christian Right is a throwback to the pre-Enlightenment era.
For the casually spiritual, the secular, the agnostic, it simply doesn't make sense that you'd legislate in accordance with an outdated book rather than cutting edge social science. But for those who truly believe, homosexuality isn't just unpleasant, but a stain on our world. Immorality is an affront to God. It doesn't matter what social science says or public policy students discover, you legislate based on morality, not results."

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Auntie Pinko's advice

This columnist has some good points about future Democratic Party strategy.
we should spend the next couple of years doing two things:

* Identifying and prioritizing the qualities we really want in a leader; and

* Paying attention to Democratic elected officials nationwide, to see how well they live those qualities.

I say "qualities," rather than "positions" or "issues" quite deliberately. The Democratic Party embraces too broad a spectrum of beliefs and priorities about issues to ever achieve a consensus about a single individual based on her or his actions regarding a whole array of issues. Rather, what do a Democrat's actions tell us about their ability to lead, in many different contexts?

Some Abstinence Programs Mislead Teens

Ceci Connolly reports that there may be serious deficiencies in the federally-funded sex abstinence programs for kids. But scientific accuracy is not that high a priority with this administration.