Thursday, December 29, 2005

Who's in charge here?

Yet another administration failure: the SBA and the special 9/11 loans. Is there anyone competent in the WH at all?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Not Hunter-Gatherers After All

Humans are, in fact, a domesticated breed.
"This analysis suggested that around 1800 genes, or roughly 7% of the total in the human genome, have changed under the influence of natural selection within the past 50,000 years. A second analysis using a second SNP database gave similar results. That is roughly the same proportion of genes that were altered in maize when humans domesticated it from its wild ancestors."

Kelly's Rules

What makes the Skunk Works work.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

How Many?

If Abramoff lestifies, how many congressmen is he going to take down? And who are they?
"Abramoff would provide testimony about numerous members of Congress and their staffs if he and the Justice Department reach an agreement, the sources said. Negotiations have been ongoing for several months, people knowledgeable about the discussions said, but pressure is mounting because of the pending trial."

Max doesn't get it

Max Boot in the LAT:
"I suspect it'll be a long wait because the rule of thumb seems to be that although it's treasonous for pro-Bush partisans to spill secrets that might embarrass an administration critic, it's a public service for anti-Bush partisans to spill secrets that might embarrass the administration. The determination of which secrets are OK to reveal is, of course, to be made not by officials charged with protecting our nation but by journalists charged with selling newspapers."
Max, you dolt, if you have a security clearance you aren't allowed to leak secrets. If, on the other hand, you are a reporter and you piece together the secrets from the mistakes made by the agents it's fair game. Of course if we had a president and an administration that was worthy of respect they might be able command some respect with the media. Unfortunately this has none and deserves none.

Spy Court Judge Quits In Protest

While Bush's (hswib) defenders put forth all sorts of rationalizations of domestic spying, this judget considers it serious enough to tender his resignation as a spy court judge.
"A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. late Monday notifying him of his resignation without providing an explanation.

Two associates familiar with his decision said yesterday that Robertson privately expressed deep concern that the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the president in 2001 was legally questionable and may have tainted the FISA court's work."

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Deja Vu all over again

Texans should be quite familiar with the Bushian (hswib)practice of taking credit for popular legislation that he opposed until it became inconvenient to do so. Most of the good things for which he took credit as governor followed this pattern.

What the People Don't know...

It's been the practice of previous Vice-Presidents to disclose travel expenses and the reimbursements received for visits to colleges, think tanks, and associations as is required by law for heads of governmental agencies. But the Cheney regime decided that the law didn't apply to them. They argue the technicality that the Office of the Vice-President is not an agency. Dick may be within his rights but why did he decide to change a long term practice? Clearly he doesn't want the rest of us to know what his reimbursements are. Either he is hiding something in particular or its he nature to be as secretive as possible as a matter of principle. I suspect it's the latter. But do you want to be the citizen of a country that hides information just because it can? Or would you rather live in a country that limits it secrets to only those things that need to be secret?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Karl, It's Your Turn

An old link now but it still may be a guud one.
"Two things are clear, the sources said: either Rove will agree to enter into a plea deal with Fitzgerald or he will be charged with a crime, but he will not be exonerated for the role he played in the leak.

If Rove does agree to a plea, Fitzgerald is not expected to discuss any aspect of his probe into the President’s senior adviser because Rove may be called to testify as a prosecution witness against I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby was indicted last month on five counts of lying to investigators, perjury and obstruction of justice related to his role in the leak."

Rep. Cunningham pleads guilty to tax violations

Josh Marshall sinks one of their battleships.

Tuneful icebergs reveal an unsung secret

An appropriate analogy for a singing iceberg is the "singing" of household plumbing as water rushe through it. Water is flowing through channels in the berg. Volcanoes make similar noises and molten rock flows through channels in them.

Secrets of bee flight revealed

Finally they have proven that honeybees can fly. And forget the fancy explanation, what the bees are doing is sculling. They flip the angle of attack 90 degrees when the wing changes direction.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The List

of the distorted intelligence this administration (hswib) used to get our soldiers killed. As the weight of this ignominy begins to bear down I expect to see resignations at the top prior to the 2008 elections. Republicans will be forced to act against the President if they want to retain any chance at the polls.

Sometimes, a Tax Cut for the Wealthy Can Hurt the Wealthy

From the New York Times. The poor surely suffer as programs are cut. Our capacity for growth suffers as basic research falters. And the rich gain nothing on the Layard scale of happiness. And the deficits are going to put the bite on them as well.
"Large federal budget deficits and low household savings rates have also forced our government to borrow more than $650 billion each year, primarily from China, Japan and South Korea. These loans must be repaid in full, with interest. The resulting financial burden, plus the risks associated with increased international monetary instability, fall disproportionately on the rich."

Bullshit disguised as "truth"

Hugh Hewitt smugly tries (and fails) to make some sort of case for the Bush (hswib) War.

His cases hinges on 20/20 hindsight in positing that it would have been better to take out the Taliban in 1999 or 2000. But it simultaneously fails because the same 20/20 hindsight with regards to Iraq shows that our adventure in Iraq had no grounds except for neo-con fantasies.

His position is the basically the same bully/chicken-shit one of the current administration (hswib). This position says that we must strike preemptively because we can strike and because we are too chicken to wait for the other guy to throw the first punch. In the real world such behavior constitutes felonious assault. Self-defence it isn't. No matter how often you say otherwise.

But the righties are all a-twitter nonetheless.

But is reassuring to know that this is the best argument they may have and that it's so abysmally lame.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Bill Moyers on The Texas Observer at 50

Bill Moyers gives well-deserved props to a feisty Texas publication that has now made it to the half-century mark.

This guy is on the Supreme Court?

Antonin Scalia attempts to rewrite history. There seems to be quite a bit of that going on from the right.
"It's Gore's fault the Bush campaign asked the Supreme Court to override a state court on a state ballot issue? The Supreme Court had to take the case? Is Scalia serious?"

Monday, November 21, 2005

DU and WP

Recent white phosphorous discussions have brought out the knee-jerk reactions to depleted uranium. This is to remind people that the effects of post-combat DU are negligible.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A lie for a just cause?

Jonah? Is that the best you can do?

The problem, Mr. Goldberg, is that 9/11 wasn't Saddam's doing and is therefore irrelevant to the Bush (hswib) War.

Knight-Ridder calls bullshit on the administration (hswib)

The MSM factchecks the White House. Boy, do we need more of this.


Even though it is targeted at the world’s poorest countries, I'm sure it will spill over into the commercial world. It's like a super PDA on the cheap. Most peripherals will be USB-ported in. It has a hand-cranked charger so it can easily operate off-the-grid or where no grid exists.

Math Breakthrough

Project managers alert. There has been a breakthrough in complex task assignment theory. A new algorithm optimizes significantly better than any preceding method.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Shoot a picture first, focus later

This is cool. Digital technology enables them to make a camera that captures light from all angles at once. No trade-off between aperture and depth-of-field.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Lincoln Canard

When a righty tries to justify Bush's unpopularity by invoking Lincoln, remind him that Lincoln came into office because both Dems and Repubs were so factionalized they couldn't agree sufficiently among themselves on a candidate. Most people didn't know him and few liked him but no single group was strong enough to oppose him. He persisted despite his unpopularity because he had a strong and worthy guiding principle, the Union must be preserved. In the end that principle carried him through the unpopularity.

What is Bush's worthy principle that could eventually vindicate him? There is none.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Friday, November 11, 2005

Where Health Insurance Dollars Go

California has done a study of where the dollars are spent. 25% goes into the overhead of shuffling the papers.
"After reviewing the study findings, Kevin Grumbach, MD, professor and chair of the UCSF Department of Family and Community Medicine and an expert on health policy, commented, 'Research conclusively demonstrates that public insurance systems in Canada and other nations have avoided the costly administrative inefficiencies that plague the market-oriented US health system. Reading this study, people may well ask why our nation tolerates such an inefficient system where 45 million Americans lack insurance coverage.'"

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Boot gets it

LeBoutillier is one of the few rational conservatives out there and he makes the case against the Bush (hswib) war and the administation as a whole. He also takes shots at the spineless enablers in the media and the Democratic party.
"No, sadly there were no WMD in Iraq since the end of the Gulf War in 1991 and the imposition of sanctions. Saddam from that point on bluffed his enemies - internal and elsewhere - into thinking he had them because in the past he had used them on his Kurdish enemies. And in the Middle East fear and bluffing are instrumental in maintaining a hold on power.

Today in Washington, the very same politicians who got us into this mess in Iraq - a mess which can only result in an Iraq in alliance with Tehran (our worst nightmare) - are running scared trying to place blame elsewhere.

Bush is in a total meltdown - in great part because Iraq has sapped his credibility - and the Congress is held in almost the same level of disdain. Iraq, gas price rip-offs, illegals swarming unabated into our nation and Katrina have soured the American people."

What is a Liberal?

Dwight Merideth has the code.
"A liberal is a conservative with an autistic son. A liberal is a conservative with a lesbian daughter. A liberal is a conservative who has been tortured. A liberal is a conservative who has felt the sting of racial discrimination. A liberal is a conservative with a mentally ill relative."

Who Lied about Iraq?

Kevin Drum takes apart the Podhoretz canard that everyone believed Saddam had WMD. The WMD case became weaker and weaker as March 2003 approached. But the concerted effort to muffle the dissenters became stronger and stronger.

More bang for the buck

This is an interesting idea. Take the waste heat that is dispersed in a cooling tower and vector it in such a way that a vortex is produced. Then use the vortex to augment the power production. Almost like an afterburner.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What the 'Shield' Covered Up

E.J. Dionne points how the Plame coverup allowed Bush to get reelected. One measly indictment is not too great a price.
As long as Bush still faced the voters, the White House wanted Americans to think that officials such as Libby, Karl Rove and Vice President Cheney had nothing to do with the leak campaign to discredit its arch-critic on Iraq, former ambassador Joseph Wilson.

And Libby, the good soldier, pursued a brilliant strategy to slow the inquiry down. As long as he was claiming that journalists were responsible for spreading around the name and past CIA employment of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, Libby knew that at least some news organizations would resist having reporters testify. The journalistic "shield" was converted into a shield for the Bush administration's coverup.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Swinging Pendulum

There is little that can be done to stop the establishment of a conservative Supreme Court. But actually I think that's a good thing in the long run. Just as the Bush administration has turned out to be the disaster we predicted, so would a conservative Supreme Court. If abortion rights (for example) become unbearably restricted, the political environment will reflect that in a backlash against the whole conservative ideology. Sometimes we have to experience a little adversity in order to appreciate the freedoms we have.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Losing the Wheels

Think about it. It's almost like a perfect storm is gathering over the White House and the Republican Congress. Indictments are coming for "senior White House officials", indictments have been handed down for the key leader in the House, an ill-advised war is going poorly, and the country's fiscal state gets more and more precarious. When this administration (hswib) came into power I knew we were headed for dark days. The only skill they had demonstrated was in winning elections (barely) but no skill at actually governing. I hoped with all my heart that the chicken would come home to roost before they were able to sneak out of town and indeed they have. Their downfall is not due to particular zealotry on the part of the opposition as much as it is on professionals doggedly pursuing their public duty. I can only hope that all this serves as an object lesson for future leaders. Short term compromises on integrity have long term negative consequences.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Biotech Cotton 8: Bugs 0

There's an important principle at work here.
"The key to Bt cotton's continued efficacy is the use of refuges -- patches of traditional cotton intermingled with the fields of Bt cotton.

The refuges ensure that the few pink bollworm moths that are resistant to Bt are most likely to mate with Bt-susceptible pink bollworm moths that grew up in the refuges. The offspring from such matings die when they eat Bt cotton.

In contrast, if all of Arizona's cotton was Bt cotton, only pink bollworm caterpillars that were resistant to the Bt toxin would survive. If resistant pink bollworm moths mated with each other, their offspring would be resistant and could feed on Bt cotton. Bt cotton would then become useless against pink bollworm."
It's the principle of integrating the new ways with the old ways. Use genetically engineered crops but keep plenty of non-engineered crops around to keep the selection pressure small on the pest population. It's like having a marine reserve so fish stocks will stay strong. Or preserving wilderness to maintain floral and faunal genetic diversity. It's almost like knowing how to live without utilities just in case.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Anti-Abortion Fallacy

From the FuturePundit:
"The human reproductive system produces a lot of genetically damaged embryos. Think about that. Two thirds of pregnancies end before women even know they are pregnant. Some additional percentage miscarry after a woman knows she's pregnant. Consider these facts in light of religious beliefs held by some that at the moment of conception a spirit is somehow attached to the fertilized egg. Does God attach spirits to all these fertilized eggs that are doomed to never attach to the uterus or that initially attach but fail due to genetic damage?

Consider this result in light of the recent work by Rudolf Jaenisch and Alexander Meissner at MIT's Whitehead Institute to create mouse embryos that can can not grow a placenta. This results in embryos that can not develop very far. Their goal is to find ways to develop embryonic stem cells that will not elicit as many objections from some religious folks. Nature (or God if you prefer) already generates lots of embryos that can not develop into humans. Likely most embryos created naturally lack that capacity. Doesn't that fact make the Jaenisch and Meissner approach more ethically acceptable?"

Friday, October 21, 2005

Rice Scientists Build World's First Single-molecule Car

This is really cool:
"Synthesis of the nanocars also produced major challenges. Tour's research group spent almost eight years perfecting the techniques used to make them. Much of the delay involved finding a way to attach the buckyball wheels without destroying the rest of the car. Palladium was used as a catalyst in the formation of the axle and chassis, and buckyballs had a tendency to shut down the palladium reactions, so finding the right method to attach the wheels involved a good bit of trial and error.

The Rice team has already followed up the nanocar work by designing a light-driven nanocar and a nanotruck that's capable of carrying a payload."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Where to go from here

Liberal Oasis breaks it down:
The Bush Administration has shot our credibility, and a change in leadership and approach is necessary to get it back.

From there, we can also talk about specific course corrections: Increasing the UN presence, getting Bush crony companies out and international companies in to improve the Iraqi infrastructure, a flexible timetable for full troop withdrawal, etc,

As the CIA Leak scandal shows, the Bushies were not honest about Iraq from the beginning. Their word is mud at home and abroad.

We need a foreign policy that is tough, moral and honest. The Republican Party has refused to provide it, Democrats can do better.

A Delicious Scenario

There is talk today that with Bolton aide, John Hannah, getting a target letter from Fitzgerald, the whole Plame thing is about to explode in the hands of key members of the administration. There are rumors that Cheney might resign and Rice could be appointed the new Veep. The problem I've always had with a Bush (hswib) impeachment is that it would leave us with Cheney. But if he goes it makes it open season in my book. Condy, in my opinion, is no less evil than the rest of the pack but at least she is smarter and her capacity for evil acts will restricted at least by the exclusion of stupid evil acts.

The Importance of the Plame Affair

What seems to get lost in the lust for blood (however delicious) is that the actions of the administration directly do get damage to the real war on terror. Not only are they ruthless in pursuing their political goals, they are incompetent when it comes to the good of the nation.
"Imagine, if you will, working in Damascus as a NOC and reading that the president's chief adviser had confirmed the identity of a NOC. As you push into middle age, wondering what happened to your life, the sudden realization that your own government threatens your safety might convince you to resign and go home. That would cost the United States an agent it had spent decades developing. You don't just pop a new agent in his place. That NOC's resignation could leave the United States blind at a critical moment in a key place. Should it turn out that Rove and Libby not only failed to protect Plame's identity but deliberately leaked it, it would be a blow to the heart of U.S. intelligence. If just one critical NOC pulled out and the United States went blind in one location, the damage could be substantial. At the very least, it is a risk the United States should not have to incur."

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

A Beginner's Campaign (post 10)

Some really good news to report this week. On Sunday, the local newspaper printed its endorsements for my race. Of me they said,"It would be better off to leave the seat empty than to elect this candidate." I wonder how often they have wanted to say that about a candidate but never really had the chance. This is great stuff! Then on Monday they published their feature article about my race in particular. I got a headline! "Unorthodox candidate challenges incumbent" How 'bout them apples. The buzz is beginning to get back to me. Some reported that a local radio station had keyed off the Herald article and had mentioned me on the air. Others dropped by my office and asked if guy described in the paper was really me. Thank you Nathan Isaacs (the reporter) wherever you are. My daughter has even had people come up to her at work and ask about me. After laboring (sort of) in obscurity thus far things are really beginning to break for me. This is the kind of thing I had really hoped for. If I get some street signs out now I think I can maximize this thing.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Round 1 goes to Evolution

The first of many, I'm sure.
"Devastating" early drafts of a controversial book recommended as reading at a US high school reveal how the word “creationism” had been later swapped for “intelligent design”, a landmark US trial scrutinising the teaching of ID heard on Wednesday.

The early drafts of the book Of Pandas and People, were used as evidence to link the book to creationism, which it is illegal to teach in government-funded US schools.

Friday, September 30, 2005

DeLay, spinning 24/7

It's almost as if he were a compulsive liar. Whenever he tries to make himself look innocent, facts come out that run against him.
The day after U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's grand jury indictment, his lawyer and the jury foreman on Thursday appeared to contradict the Texas politician's assertions that he was not given a chance to speak before the jury.

The foreman, William M. Gibson Jr., a retired state insurance investigator, said the Travis County grand jury waited until Wednesday, the final day of its term, to indict him because it was hoping he would accept jurors' invitation to testify.

DeLay said in interviews that the grand jury never asked him to testify.

Crime fighting at the dinner table

Some case studies show that the solution to behavoral problem may be a easy as a change in diet.
Stephen Schoenthaler, a criminal-justice professor at California State University in Stanislaus, has been researching the relationship between food and behaviour for more than 20 years He has proven that reducing the sugar and fat intake in our daily diets leads to higher IQs and better grades in school. When Schoenthaler supervised a change in meals served at 803 schools in low-income neighbourhoods in New York City, the number of students passing final exams rose from 11 percent below the national average to five percent above. He is best known for his work in youth detention centers. One of his studies showed that the number of violations of house rules fell by 37 percent when vending machines were removed and canned food in the cafeteria was replaced by fresh alternatives. He summarizes his findings this way: “Having a bad diet right now is a better predictor of future violence than past violent behaviour.”
But Schoenthaler’s work is under fire. A committee from his own university has recommended suspending him for his allegedly improper research methods: Schoenthaler didn’t always use a placebo as a control measure and his group of test subjects wasn’t always chosen at random. This criticism doesn’t refute Schoenthaler’s research that nutrition has an effect on behaviour. It means most of his studies simply lack the scientific soundness needed to earn the respect of his colleagues.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Ronnie Earle

Once again the media gets it wrong; particularly the right-wing variety. Contrary to what has been broadcast, Ronnie is an equal opportunity prosecutor.
"While Earle is an elected Democrat, as Media Matters for America has previously noted, a March 17* editorial in the Houston Chronicle commended his work: 'During his long tenure, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle has prosecuted many more Democratic officials than Republicans. The record does not support allegations that Earle is prone to partisan witch hunts.' This assertion supports Earle's own claim about his record; a March 6 article in the El Paso Times reported: 'Earle says local prosecution is fundamental and points out that 11 of the 15 politicians he has prosecuted over the years were Democrats.'"

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Cognitive Dissonance

In a recent conversation with a conservative friend of mine I brought up the point that Bush (hswib) has converted a surplus to debt as far as eyes can see. His response was that the surplus was actually never realized. Unfortunately at the moment I was sidetracked into a discussion of what the real economic situation was at the time. In retrospect I should have not worried about that and just let him hang with his own words. If the surplus was not real then the justification for the Bush (hswib) was bogus from the start. Furthermore, it would mean that instead of taking a good situation and making it bad he took a neutral situation and made it terrible. I'm so slow sometimes.

Friday, September 16, 2005

A Beginner's Campaign (post 9)

After weathering a meeting with the newspaper editors and most recently a candidates’ forum put on by the Republican Party, I’m feeling pretty good about this gig. I really don’t think I’m any lamer than most of the other folks who are running, including the incumbents. Furthermore, I’m finding it both comfortable and exciting to stand in the public eye. After the primary I need to get busy about sharpening my pitch and dropping talking points that fall flat. I also need to get busy about raising money and putting my microscopic number of volunteers to work on a useful task or two.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Patronage Dumping Ground

Without Katrina the public at large wouldn't know the real role of DHS.

Why is the Right on the wrong side of science?

Homosexual parenting is the favorite whipping boy of the ignorant bigots. But at some point the truth just shows how disconnected from reality they really are.
those who say the evidence shows that many same-sex parents do an excellent job of parenting are right. Those who say the evidence falls short of showing that same-sex parenting is equivalent to opposite-sex parenting (or better, or worse) are also right.

Fortunately, the research situation is improving, so we may soon have clearer answers.
And it would a real surprise to most everyone if the broader statistics were significantly different that the particular ones we have seen thus far.

Public Health and Conservation: the Real Engines of Growth

True wealth multipliers:
"Once invested, it said that every dollar spent on clean water and sanitation in the Third World, for instance, could bring $14 in benefits ranging from lower health care costs to higher work productivity and school attendance.

'Conservation of habitats and ecosystems are also cost effective when compared with the short-term profits from environmentally damaging activities' including dynamite fishing, mining or deforestation, it said.

Every dollar invested in fighting land degradation and desertification, like building terraces to stop hillside erosion, could generate at least $3 in benefits, the Poverty Environment Partnership report estimated."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

FEMA victim

George Bush's responsibility:
"And when George W. Bush says that he accepts full responsibility for what happened, don't forget this picture and that this is exactly what he and his clueless political hacks at FEMA are responsible for: The near lethal starvation over 16 agonizing days of a 74-year man in New Orleans.

God bless the California National Guard, and God bless Edgar Hollingsworth. We suspect the Almighty already has other plans for the people at FEMA."

New Stem Cell Lines Needed

Yet another reason for deposing the Western Taliban. We need to get going again on stem cell research because the current restrictions are bringing US scientists to a dead end.

Zinc powder...

could drive your hydrogen car. More ideas on the hydrogen fuel front.

I'm beginning to think that the dislocations that come with Peak Oil will not be that severe. Instead it will be a simple sea-change in economic direction.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

End of the Bush Era

It began with a bullhorn and ended in a floud.
"The Bush Era is over. The sooner politicians in both parties realize that, the better for them -- and the country."
He invoked our national anger over terrorism to win support for a war in Iraq. But he failed to pay heed to those who warned that the United States would need many more troops and careful planning to see the job through. The president assumed things would turn out fine, on the basis of wildly optimistic assumptions. Careful policymaking and thinking through potential flaws in your approach are not his administration's strong suits.

And so the Bush Era ended definitively on Sept. 2, the day Bush first toured the Gulf Coast States after Hurricane Katrina. There was no magic moment with a bullhorn. The utter failure of federal relief efforts had by then penetrated the country's consciousness. Yesterday's resignation of FEMA Director Michael Brown put an exclamation point on the failure.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

New Hydrogen Storage Technology

It can sometimes be simple things that get the job done.
"The hydrogen tablet is safe and inexpensive. In this respect it is different from most other hydrogen storage technologies. You can literally carry the material in your pocket without any kind of safety precaution. The reason is that the tablet consists solely of ammonia absorbed efficiently in sea-salt. Ammonia is produced by a combination of hydrogen with nitrogen from the surrounding air, and the DTU-tablet therefore contains large amounts of hydrogen. Within the tablet, hydrogen is stored as long as desired, and when hydrogen is needed, ammonia is released through a catalyst that decomposes it back to free hydrogen. When the tablet is empty, you merely give it a “shot” of ammonia and it is ready for use again."
That's right. Instead of a complicate bed of hydrides this process charges a ceramic with ammonia. Exposure to nitrogen in the air releases the hydrogen.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Shell Oil Shale Extraction Can Be Economically Viable

A new method that heats the shale in situ shows promise.

Who's Counting: Complexity and Intelligent Design

From ABC News:
So far, so good. What is more than a bit odd, however, is that some of the most ardent opponents of Darwinian evolution — for example, many fundamentalist Christians — are among the most ardent supporters of the free market. These people accept the natural complexity of the market without qualm, yet they insist that the natural complexity of biological phenomena requires a designer.

They would reject the idea that there is or should be central planning in the economy. They would rightly point out that simple economic exchanges that are beneficial to people become entrenched and then gradually modified as they become part of larger systems of exchange, while those that are not beneficial die out. They accept that Adam Smith's invisible hand brings about the spontaneous order of the modern economy. Yet, as noted, some of these same people refuse to believe that natural selection and "blind processes" can lead to similar biological order arising spontaneously.


What would you think of someone who studied economic entities and their interactions in a modern free market economy and insisted that they were, despite a perfectly reasonable and empirically supported account of their development, the consequence of some all-powerful, detail-obsessed economic law-giver? You might deem such a person a conspiracy theorist.

And what would you think of someone who studied biological processes and organisms and insisted that they were, despite a perfectly reasonable and empirically supported Darwinian account of their development, the consequence of some all-powerful, detail-obsessed biological law-giver?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Mayor to feds: 'Get off your asses'

Daa-aamn! This is one pissed-off mayor.

Department of Homeland Screw-Up

What is the Bush administration doing? More hindsight by Tim Naftali:
"How is it possible that with the fourth anniversary of 9/11 almost upon us, the federal government doesn't have in hand the capability to prepare for and then manage a large urban disaster, natural or man-made? In terms of the challenge to government, there is little difference between a terrorist attack that wounds many people and renders a significant portion of a city uninhabitable, and the fallout this week from the failure of one of New Orleans' major levees. Indeed, a terrorist could have chosen a levee for his target. Or a dirty-bomb attack in New Orleans could have caused the same sort of forced evacuation we are seeing and the widespread sickness that is likely to follow."
This sad thing is that the mismanagement wasn't on anyone's radar until Katrina. It makes one wonder what the next problem is going to be.

Why does John Roberts hate courts so much?

Dahlia Lithwick:
"one of the consistent themes is that he sees almost no role for courts as remedial institutions. Judges should limit themselves to interpreting the law, parsing statutes, and nothing more. Anything else, he feels, is overreaching.

So Roberts has made it his work to try to hobble the courts, be it by approving court-stripping legislation, cutting off access to courts for classes of plaintiffs, limiting the reach of federal statutes, or curbing the power of the courts to remedy injustices. The best courts, it seems, are bound, gagged, and left to huddle in a closet. One sort of wonders why the job of judge appeals to him in the first place."

This is the essential question. Does this country want a guy like this on the Supreme Court.

I'm not disturbed about the politicization of court nominees. After all, at the state level they are often selected by general election. Can you be more political than that?

The Last ISP in NOLA

Powered by a backup generator, located on upper floors of downtown office building, connected by fiber optics to the rest of the world. The Interdictor stays online in the middle of one of our nation's worst natural disaster.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

When Government Is 'Good'

E. J. Dionne expands that last thought into a wakeup call.

What to do next

From a comment at DailyKos,
Please, in the days, weeks and months to come, let's not let these people have died in vain. May their memories, loved ones and us remove the inept and heartless from office. Disgraces, one and all.
Perhaps the best thing we can do is honor the lives of those who have been sacrificed to denial. And honoring those lives means making some bedrock changes. It's time to take our environment and the power of Nature more seriously. And it's time to remove from leadership those who don't.

A Beginner's Campaign (post 8)

I had the endorsement interview with the editorial board of the local news paper the other day. It was my first time, of course, dealing directly with media. The senior members of the board seemed offended by the very idea that someone would run for office with the expressed desire to not be elected. "Why waste people's time?", they asked. But whose time am I wasting? Certainly not the voter's. They were complaining because I was wasting their time. I'm not wasting any more of their time than they themselves want to put into it. Would they rather I mount a lame campaign and pretend that I hope to win? At least they have the option to dismiss me if they choose, an option they wouldn't have if I was pretending.

The other members could see the humor in the situation. There was a reporter present as well who smiled a good deal. There will be an interview with him later one-on-one. It will be interesting to see what angle he takes on my story.

I almost got snookered in one area. They wanted to take a photo but they didn't have a photographer available. I was thinking that as print media I didn't have to worry too much about what I wore so I didn't wear the tuxedo I had intended to be an icon of my campaign. Note to self: every public appearance should be done in proper regalia. If you want to have visual branding you need to be aware of it at all times. I'll be wearing the tux to the interview.

Know Them by Their Fruits

You can really see what matters to the right-wing conservatives of this country. In the social deterioration that is New Orleans they actually think it makes sense to retask police who are trying to save lives to stopping looters. People, it's just stuff! People will die because some officer took time to stop a looter. It's surprising how some people fail to see that. But then maybe it isn't.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Report from Crawford II

From the Panhandle Truth Squad.

Hurricane Protection

When it comes to hurricanes and people, Bush (hswib)sides with the hurricanes.
"The Gulf Coast wetlands form a 'natural buffer that helps protect New Orleans from storms,' slowing hurricanes down as they approach from sea. When he came into office, President Bush pledged to uphold the 'no net loss' wetland policy his father initiated. He didn't keep his word. Bush rolled back tough wetland policies set by the Clinton administration, ordering federal agencies 'to stop protecting as many as 20 million acres of wetlands and an untold number of waterways nationwide.' Last year, four environmental groups issued a joint report showing that administration policies had allowed 'developers to drain thousands of acres of wetlands.' The result? New Orleans may be in even greater danger: 'Studies show that if the wetlands keep vanishing over the next few decades, then you won't need a giant storm to devastate New Orleans -- a much weaker, more common kind of hurricane could destroy the city too.' "

Before and After

NOLA courtesy of NASA.

The Next Bush (hswib) scandal

Remember Halliburton?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The FCC's cable crackdown

Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more. Some people just need to grow up.

FBI Document Labels Peace Groups as Terrorists

The fibbies can be so clueless sometimes. Any terrorist worth his C4 would be in the pro-Bush groups. They are the only ones who have a prayer of getting close enough to do any damage.
"'This document confirms our fears that federal and state counterterrorism officers have turned their attention to groups and individuals engaged in peaceful protest activities,' said Ben Wizner, an ACLU staff attorney and counsel in a lawsuit seeking the release of additional FBI records. 'When the FBI and local law enforcement identify affirmative action advocates as potential terrorists, every American has cause for concern.'

The document released today is an FBI report labeled, 'Domestic Terrorism Symposium,' and describes a meeting that was intended to 'keep the local, state and federal law enforcement agencies apprised of the activities of the various groups and individuals within the state of Michigan who are thought to be involved in terrorist activities.'"

How to tell good science from bad

For the layman and the journalist it is difficult to assess what differentiates good science from agenda-based science. Peter Wilby gives a useful rule-of-thumb.
"My recommendation to journalists is the same as that given to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein at the start of the Watergate investigation: follow the money. A scientific consensus should be treated with scepticism if the consensus happens to suit the interests of the rich and powerful. Even though scientists are not exactly corrupt, their work depends heavily on research contracts, grants and sponsorship. When nearly all of them are willing to resist the paymasters, I reason, they must be pretty damn convinced.

So the consensus that BSE ('mad cow disease') could not be transmitted to humans was always suspect because the agricultural industry had the money. I remain sceptical of the consensus that we shall all be done in by bird flu (yes, you can laugh if I catch it this winter), because the money is with the pharmaceutical industry, which can make millions selling drugs and vaccines we won't need. Conversely, I believe sugar and salt must be bad for us, as most scientists say, because the entire food industry is desperate to believe they are not.

On this basis, global warming is a no-brainer. Few manufacturers of wind turbines have a financial interest in causing alarm. Nearly all the money is with the oil industry and, if you dig deep enough, you find that many climate-change sceptics get help, directly or indirectly, from that source. The counter-claim that hundreds of climate scientists are motivated by politics - which presumably means they want to overthrow capitalism or undermine America - just doesn't stack up. So when scientists say we're all going to drown or fry if we carry on using fossil fuels, they should be taken seriously, and put on the front pages. QED."

Monday, August 29, 2005

Visitors to Anti-War Camp

Martin Sheen and others visit Cindy.
"Cindy Sheehan hasn't achieved a meeting with the president during her three-week war protest, but she met a man who plays one on TV. Martin Sheen, who portrays the president on NBC's 'The West Wing,' visited Sheehan's makeshift campsite Sunday."

Tempest brews over quotes on Starbucks cups

This is how the Western Taliban works. They can't stand for people to even discuss homosexuality. In their view, to even talk about it is equivalent to advocating it. In fact it just shows how bereft of merit their position is if it can be threatened by a mere discussion.

How to win a Nobel Prize

From someone who knows:

Try to solve major problems and make really big discoveries.

Be realistic and play to your strengths.

Acquire the basic skills and work with the right people.

Learn to write clearly and concisely.

Work in an appropriate field.

Find and cultivate your true passion.

Focus and don't be a dilettante.

Be selective about where you work.

Value evidence and learn to see what's in front of your nose.

Think outside the box.

Talk about the problem.

Tell the truth.

Be generous and culturally aware.

Be persistent and tenacious, but be prepared to fail.

Your time is precious.

Avoid prestigious administrative roles.

Take care of yourself and live a long time.

Have fun, behave like a winner.

Good advice all around.

Bring back the OTA

Perhaps our congress needs a little help with the science.
"Nevertheless, following the 'Gingrich revolution' of 1994, incoming congressional Republicans dismantled their authoritative scientific advisory office in a stunning act of self-lobotomy. Obsessed with shrinking government, Gingrich's acolytes denounced OTA for being too slow in its assessments and (some added) suspect in its political orientation. The late Cong. George Brown of California, leading the Democratic minority on the House Science Committee at the time, memorably countered that the agency had served as Congress's 'defense against the dumb,' and continued, 'it is shameful that OTA was defenseless against a very dumb decision by Congress.'

This September marks the 10-year anniversary of the official shuttering of the congressional Office of Technology Assessment. From today's vantage point, we can plainly see how sorely OTA is missed in congressional debates on subjects ranging from bunker-busting nukes to therapeutic cloning. Even some on the right--most notably Adam Keiper, managing editor of the neoconservative journal the New Atlantis--have recognized the virtues of OTA and counseled that the congressional Republicans 'should, in their own way, on their own terms, build their own version of a professional advisory body on science and technology.' "

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A War to Be Proud Of?

It's going to be fun watching the adults take down this crock of bovine excrement. How nice of Mr. Hitchens to serve it up in such style.

Christian Schools Bring Suit Against UC

The Western Taliban are going to churn about this. The LA Times reports that the University of California is not accepting Bob Jones biology as valid.
"'It appears that the UC system is attempting to secularize Christian schools and prevent them from teaching from a world Christian view,' said Patrick H. Tyler, a lawyer with Advocates for Faith and Freedom, which is assisting the plaintiffs."
Wrong, dimwit. So-called Christian schools can teach whatever they want. But that doesn't make it science. If you want your students accepted at secular schools they need to learn science not oral tradition.

Friday, August 26, 2005

A Beginner's Campaign (post 7)

I had an organizational meeting last week. I had hope to bring a few other heads on board to help out. But only one person showed up. Oh well. I have to face the fact that my idea for a campaign may not by interesting at all for other folks as much as I love it personally. It also shows that I'm certainly have to work harder than I have been heretofore. Like most folks I thrive on encouragement and it's just tougher to slog on ahead without it. Next week is the endorsement interview with the local newspaper. I need to get well-prepared for that.

More ways Roberts will be bad

The only judicial activism he likes is the kind that protects his big business buddies.

Making space pay

Ingenuity takes over as NASA cuts back.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Who Will Say 'No More'?

Gary Hart in the Post:
In 2008 I want a leader who is willing now to say: "I made a mistake, and for my mistake I am going to Iraq and accompanying the next planeload of flag-draped coffins back to Dover Air Force Base. And I am going to ask forgiveness for my mistake from every parent who will talk to me."

Further, this leader should say: "I am now going to give a series of speeches across the country documenting how the administration did not tell the American people the truth, why this war is making our country more vulnerable and less secure, how we can drive a wedge between Iraqi insurgents and outside jihadists and leave Iraq for the Iraqis to govern, how we can repair the damage done to our military, what we and our allies can do to dry up the jihadists' swamp, and what dramatic steps we must take to become energy-secure and prevent Gulf Wars III, IV and so on."

At stake is not just the leadership of the Democratic Party and the nation but our nation's honor, our nobility and our principles. Franklin D. Roosevelt established a national community based on social justice. Harry Truman created international networks that repaired the damage of World War II and defeated communism. John F. Kennedy recaptured the ideal of the republic and the sense of civic duty. To expect to enter this pantheon, the next Democratic leader must now undertake all three tasks.

Microbe Has Huge Role In Ocean Life

The second law of thermodynamics seems to function at the genetic level as well. As organisms get more complex and specialized the genome becomes more disordered. But without knowing it we critically depend on the simplest of things.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Now that's what I'm talking about

Some of the better minds out there are producing ideas of how to get out of this mess.

al Qaeda is Flush With Cash

Maybe we are fighting the wrong war.
"There is growing evidence in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond that al Qaeda and its allies are newly flush with cash, able to buy new weapons, more sophisticated communications equipment and deadlier and more complex explosives. This contradicts the more optimistic public assesments Bush administration officials, who continue to assert that the financial war on Islamic radicals is going well. For one of the best recent assessments of the situation, consistant with what my sources are telling me, can be found in recent Knight-Ridder reporting here. The reporting also outlines the growing links among radical Islamists in the two fronts of their war."

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Police foil gas attack on Commons

The right way to fight terror is not usually all that visible. It takes superb intelligence and finesse. Brute force is counter-productive.

Friday, August 19, 2005

'lowest point in my life'

"A former top aide to Colin Powell says his involvement in the former secretary of state's presentation to the United Nations on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction was 'the lowest point' in his life.

'I wish I had not been involved in it,' says Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a longtime Powell adviser who served as his chief of staff from 2002 through 2005. 'I look back on it, and I still say it was the lowest point in my life.'"

Editor Explains Reasons for 'Intelligent Design' Article

It doesn't help the case of reason when the scientific community hyper-reaacts to an article about (so-called) intelligent design. A dead idea like that can be easily dismissed.

Lazer Trip Wire

A cool toy. Set up a perimeter alarm with inexpensive infrared devices.

Baby comes with brain repair kit for mum

Pregnant women get a brain boost from the fetus. Fetal stem cells pass through the placenta into the blood stream and eventually into the brain. There they can develop into new neurons to repair the wear and tear on an aging brain.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The Roberts Ethics Problem

I wonder if anyone cares. I'm sure the right considers this to be just business as usual.
"Did administration officials or Roberts ask whether it was proper to conduct interviews for a possible Supreme Court nomination while the judge was adjudicating the government's much-disputed claims of expansive presidential powers? Did they ask whether it was appropriate to do so without informing opposing counsel?

If they had asked, they would have discovered that the interviews violated federal law on the disqualification of judges. Federal law deems public trust in the courts so critical that it requires judges to step aside if their 'impartiality might reasonably be questioned,' even if the judge is completely impartial as a matter of fact. As Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in a 1988 Supreme Court opinion, 'the very purpose of [this law] is to promote confidence in the judiciary by avoiding even the appearance of impropriety whenever possible.' The requirement of an appearance of impartiality has been cited in situations like the one here, leading to the disqualification of a judge or the reversal of a verdict."

Hormone Causes Weight Loss By Appetite Reduction

Science marches on.

Slowing or Stopping Genocide

A note for future policy makers.
A study published in the latest issue of International Studies Quarterly is the first to examine the effectiveness of military action on the severity of ongoing instances of genocide and polititcide. The study reveals that only overt military interventions that explicitly challenge the perpetrator appear to be effective in reducing the severity of the brutal policies.
On the one hand this is good news in that we know what works and what doesn't work. On the other hand what works is that one thing we are often slow to do. However in light of the fact that we are now throwing away lives in Iraq, risking them to really do something effective may be easier to sell in the future.

Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory

But we already knew that the Earth sucks.

Lefty Chimps

This isn't surprising. But it's nice that someone bothered to find out.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

When Presidents Were Smarter

A previous president gracefully solved a similar problem to that presented by Cindy Sheehan. He sent Eleanor. And he made an appropriate policy response.

The right works itself into a lather about her in hopes of making her just go away. They don't see that even if she is all the things they accuse her of being, her symbolic vigil still matters a great deal because of the central problem that brought her and other parents to the Texas roadside. She lost her son and the administration's (hswib) incompetence is the cause. There's nothing the right can say that diminishes that fact. And until this administration works as hard on making it right as it has on making it wrong, it is diminished by one grieving mother.

Ahh, the good ol' days

Some excellent quotes about a president and willy-nilly war making.

For example:
"I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our over-extended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today"
--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)
As noted in dkos, not a single soldier was killed in Clinton's Bosnian intervention.

Flip-flopper Roberts

So, how confused was he?
"In Roberts’ view, the fatal flaw of the statute was not its substance but rather the remarks of its sponsors, who “stated clearly in the legislative history that their purpose was to return voluntary prayer to schools.” Roberts’ analysis was clearly correct. The Court struck down the Alabama statute solely because of its illegitimate purpose, not out of any general aversion to moment-of-silence laws.

But five months later, Roberts wrote another memo on church-state issues. This time he said he had “no objection” to a constitutional amendment that would allow schools to start the day with silent prayer or meditation. He described the Court’s holding in the Alabama case as “prohibit[ing] such a moment of silent reflection—or even silent ‘prayer,’” and characterized the holding as “indefensible.” Roberts’ analysis here was clearly incorrect."
The Roberts nomination may not be stoppable but it will certainly be bad for the country. But so would any Bush (hswib) nominee. The question before us is how bad is it going to have to get before people want to make it better?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Times editors and an ethics policy

"'The Times's policy does not permit the granting of anonymity to confidential news sources 'as cover for a personal or partisan attack.'' So which is it, Times editors? Let's give Judy the benefit of the doubt for a minute and accept that she was a catcher, not a pitcher. Then, according to her own paper's ethical standards, if the person pitching to her is doing it for partisan reasons -- and is anybody doubting that? -- then there is no 'granting of anonymity'."

Monday, August 15, 2005


True to form the opposition has been working to discredit Cindy. But even supposing that all the stuff they say about her is true (and I seriously doubt it is), don't they understand that if they knock her off the stand there will only be another and another? The point has tipped and every grieving family has the potential to direct that grief at the perpetrator who took their soldiers from them.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


We, as a nation, can field spectacular military power and can back it up with deep financial resources. Why then can't we muster the will and resources to deal effectively with rogue nations and violent conspiracies? I think those who see the military as the solution to international problems have a genuinely retarded imagination.

Others are dealing with this question also.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Someone Tell the President the War Is Over

Going along with the Cindy Sheehan tipping point we have Frank Rich using Bush's (hswib) own words to lay out the comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam. Furthermore he points out what is becoming more and more obvious, there are no graceful exits out there. Only ungraceful ones.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Global warming skeptics on shakier ground

The few studies that global warming skeptics point to have been reviewed again and guess what? They were showing that warming was happening just like all the other studies showed.

Myth Busted

Go ahead and play your games.
"Contrary to popular opinion and most previous research, the new study found that players’ “robust exposure” to a highly violent online game did not cause any substantial real-world aggression."

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Abramoff Indicted

My, my, my. What's that sound? Could it be the chickens coming home to roost?

Abortion Rights Group Withdraws Roberts Ad

In the face of well-deserved criticism NARAL withdraws its ad. Good for them. One needs to be aggressive but sinking to the Swift Boat level is counter-productive.

I know this is just my own perception but I find it hard to imagine that the righties would take the trouble to actually rein their attack dogs. They would just stay silent and tacitly let them do the dirty work. What's important is plausible deniability.

Cindy Sheehan

Somehow I think her son would be proud.
"She spoke with a combination of utter determination, unassailable integrity, fearlessness, and the peace of someone who knows that their cause is just. Her commitment was palpable -- and infectious. It reminded me an old quote about the great Greek orators: “When Pericles spoke, the people said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march!’”

That’s the feeling I got from this former Catholic youth minister. She of the floppy hat and the six foot frame (though she’s standing even taller than that these days). A woman driven by faith and conviction who used to think that one person couldn’t make a difference and is learning otherwise. Her humanity stands in stark contrast to the inhumanity of those who refuse to admit their mistakes and continue to send our young men and women to die in Iraq."
And in her own words:
"Casey knew that the war was wrong from the beginning. But he felt it was his duty to go, that his buddies were going, and that he had no choice. The people who send our young, honorable, brave soldiers to die in this war, have no skin in the game. They don’t have any loved ones in harm’s way. As for people like O’Reilly and Hannity and Michelle Malkin and Rush Limbaugh and all the others who are attacking me and parroting the administration line that we must complete the mission there -- they don’t have one thing at stake. They don’t suffer through sleepless nights worrying about their loved ones

Before this all started, I used to think that one person couldn’t make a difference... but now I see that one person who has the backing and support of millions of people can make a huge difference."

Locusts have innate 'surface analysis'

It seems that locusts can tell whether they are flying over water because they can detect reflected polarized light. That keeps them out of big bodies of water. There's hope that one could affect their migration path with something as simple as plastic sheets.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Warming hits 'tipping point'

This could be really bad. A peat bog the size of France and Germany combined is thawing for the first time since it formed 11,000 years ago. When it thaws it outgasses methane, billions of metric tons. It takes lots of fossil fuel burning to match that.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A Beginner's Campaign (post 6)

I sent out my first appeal for support tonight. (Lord, forgive me for I have spammed.) It will be interesting to see how many respond positively. The people I've talked to in person usually don't understand what I'm doing at first. After a while some get it. But others will remain puzzled forever.

There's a county fair coming up in a couple of weeks which would be a good time to talk to masses of people. I'll have to find out what the fair rules are about non-partisan candidates. Both major political parties have booths and the rules require candidates to stay within two feet or so of their respective booths. That keeps them from making a nuisance of themselves out in the aisles. Even though my particular race is non-partisan, somehow I don't think either party is going to want me standing next to their booth. It will be an interesting challenge.

Report from Cindy

Could this be the tipping point? Now that the media have woken up to Cindy Sheehan's vigil she is becoming the igniting spark to families across the country who have been looking for a way to turn their grief into productive action. They are coming to join her on a dusty Central Texas road. An Iraqi veteran from Ft Hood spent hours with her. He will be going back in-country in October. The presidential security detachment has magically turned the county property where she was camping into private property and is moving to evict her.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

A Beginner's Campaign (post 5)

It seems that real politics has stolen a bit of my thunder. Instead of a sleepy little election there may actually be some genuine politicing going on. My community consists of three fair-sized cities and a handful of small suburban municipalities. In one of the cities (not mine, thank goodness) three members of the same family are challenging city council incumbents for three different positions. Talk about your campaign synergy! In one of the smaller communities the government has always been a bit of an afterthought and the current incumbents have raised the ire of many of their constituents. That race looks like a free-for-all.

I was hoping to be a bright spot in an otherwise-drab election. But I may just be a side-show to the main event. You never can predict these things.

My local newspaper came out with a profile today of the my particular race. I think I caught my opponent flat-footed in that he had every reason to expect to be unopposed. When asked by the reporter to characterize his campaign and issues he really didn't have much to say. Somehow I don't think that will last for long. And that's a good thing.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Naming Games

It doesn't matter what you call it.
"The sad reality is that there is still no one in charge of directing a coordinated U.S. Government policy to combat terrorism. General Wayne Downing, who was put in charge in October of 2001, tried to do so but was slapped down by Don Rumsfeld. Downing resigned in frustration after spending less than a year on the job. Since then we have seen a virtual game of musical chairs, as different folks move in and out of the NSC slot responsible for coordinating terrorism policy.

At the end of the day this episode is a reminder of why Bin Laden is still at large. We cannot even agree on what to call the fight against Islamic radicals (FAIR is already taken as an acronym). We had WOT, thought about WOE, moved to GSAVE and may go back to WOT. Someone needs to find out WHAT is happening."

Our Country's Integrity

This is just one story. There's every indication that there are many more like it. At some point our country may need to install Desmond Tutu-esque Truth Commissions to get all the bad stuff read into the historical record.
A former London schoolboy accused of being a dedicated al-Qaida terrorist has given the first full account of the interrogation and alleged torture endured by so-called ghost detainees held at secret prisons around the world.
"If true, his account adds weight to concerns that the US authorities are torturing by proxy. It also highlights the dilemma of British authorities when they seek information from detainees overseas who they know, or suspect, are tortured.

The lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, says: 'This is outsourcing of torture, plain and simple. America knows torture is wrong but gets others to do its unconscionable dirty work.

'It's clear from the evidence that UK officials knew about this rendition to Morocco before it happened. Our government's responsibility must be to actively prevent the torture of our residents.'"

Monday, August 01, 2005

King Fahd is dead

The King is dead. Shit, meet fan. I expect to see a chaotic struggle for power now. Crown Prince Abdullah has many, many enemies and they are going to be making their play. This could get ugly. He's caught between the fundamentalism of his subjects and the endemic corruption of all the pampered princes. The threat to the world's oil supply is significant.

Mars may be out of reach

While the administration (hswib) and others our trying to drum up support for manned expeditions to Mars, there remains one, so far insurmountable impediment. Deep space radiation and the solar wind are so "hot" that there is no feasible way of shielding human travelers. One might as well send people into the Chernobyl sarcophagus.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

A Beginner's Campaign (post 4)

I had a little chat with my opponent this evening. I think he was concerned that I might have a particular beef against him (which I don't). As far as I know he has been doing a good job. I explained that I was a rookie candidate just getting my feet wet and my main purpose was to call attention to an off-year election by doing some things that were a little different. He sympathized on being a rookie candidate because he was in that position 4 years ago. Interestingly enough he recognized my name from letters to the editor I've written in times past.

Friday, July 29, 2005


Some recent studies show that planting trees may create deserts instead of mediate them. There are many active projects trying to hold back or reclaim desert by putting in trees. It may be that that is not such a good idea.

I know in Texas they found if they bulldozed all the brush mesquite in an area the water table came up ten feet. But mesquite is notorious for deep tap roots that enable it to survive in arid climates.

A Beginner's Campaign (post 3)

I guess my secret is out. The newspaper published a list of the candidates who have filed so far and my name is on it. Members of the cast of the summer musical I am involved in congratulated me at our performance tonight. I had hoped that I would have a little more time to get some stuff organized before it became public knowledge. But it's too late now.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Pincus File

Our media is waking up to an old story that is somehow new again.
"In that exchange, Mr. Pincus says, 'an administration official, who was talking to me confidentially about a matter involving alleged Iraqi nuclear activities, veered off the precise matter we were discussing and told me that the White House had not paid attention' to the trip to Niger by Joseph C. Wilson IV 'because it was a boondoggle arranged by his wife, an analyst with the agency who was working on weapons of mass destruction.'"
Mr. Pincus has not identified his source to the public. But a review of Mr. Pincus's own accounts and those of other people with detailed knowledge of the case strongly suggest that his source was neither Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top political adviser, nor I. Lewis Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, and was in fact a third administration official whose identity has not yet been publicly disclosed.

Mr. Pincus's most recent account, in the current issue of Nieman Reports, a journal of the Nieman Foundation, makes clear that his source had volunteered the information to him, something that people close to both Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby have said they did not do in their conversations with reporters.

Medical insurance - Children Lose

Our vaunted health-care system is costing our children.
"For every child who lacks health insurance, another has gaps in coverage and is just as likely to miss out on seeing a doctor or getting a prescription refilled, suggests a new comprehensive study of federal data.

The research also reveals some surprises: About four out of five children with insurance coverage gaps have parents who work; two-thirds of them live with both parents; and more than half are white."

A beginner's campaign (post 2)

I was interviewed over the phone by my local newspaper already. Basic vital stats and stuff. Basic question of course was, why are you running? I gave a decent answer but it's clear I'm going to have to come up with a nice, slick one with some snap that can be easily repeated since that is going to be a frequent question. I can already see that much of what appears in the media is canned answers to anticipated questions.

And thanks for the words of support from fellow blogger, Pudentilla, out in Maine. You're the first (other than family) and I couldn't ask for better.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Baghdad blues

I've been expecting this. The first TV series based upon the Bush (hswib) War is out. It's a Bochco product so expect it to be good. From the review the cast of characters is predictable at the start. It will be interesting to see how it develops. Other Bochco products have tended to take on a life of their own.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A beginner's campaign (post 1)

I filed today as a candidate for a city council office. I don't think I have a snowball's chance of winning and would probably make a lousy councilman if I did. What I do hope to do is a) get an insider's view of what running for office is like, b) use the platform as an opportunity to make the off-year elections more visible, and c) just have some fun in a performance theater sort of way.

I hope to log my experiences here for future reference by myself or perhaps others.

Filing itself was pretty painless. Fill out a simple form and plop down your C-note and you're on your way. The County Auditor provides a nice information packet that explains the legalities of running for office and the PDC gives you a CD of their electronic financial disclosure and reporting program. If you are not going to be receiving any large donations or spending much money you don't have to do the PDC thing at all. But heaven help you if take a big donation later on and don't have the reporting mechanism all set up. I don't plan to run big bucks but for the purpose of the exercise I'm going to set up a special checking account and everything just as if I were.

My campaign is going to be a completely unserious one in the spirit of Pat Paulsen and Mike the Mover with homage to the style of the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I intend to be completely uninhibited in what I say along the way because I'm not in it to win. My slogans will be something like, "Don't be stupid, don't vote for me!", or "Don't elect a clown like me, vote for a real candidate". The idea is to thoroughly bury tongue into the cheek.

Ricky boy

I saw Rick Santorum on the Daily Show last night with Jon Stewart. The boy really has sexuality issues. I certainly wouldn't want him around my children.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The 12-hour gap is worse than you think

It would be interesting to find out if there were any unusual activity at the White House on a certain weekend in September.
"It's not as if the Gonzales notification — on the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2003 — told Rove & Co. something new. MSNBC told the world about the investigation that Friday night. This means Rove & Co. learned on Friday night that they were being investigated, but weren't formally told to start securing relevant materials until Tuesday morning. In case the MSNBC report wasn't clear enough, a front-page article was published in the Washington Post about the Justice Department's criminal investigation a full 48 hours before WH staffers were told to preserve potentially incriminating evidence."

A neighbor's view of Valerie Wilson

There is a human story behind all the press. When the elephants dance the mice get hurt.

Butterfly unlocks evolution secret

The process of speciation reveals its secrets in the behavior of butterflies.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Depleted Uranium, Never Mind

A recent Sandia study says that the health effects of battlefield depleted uranium are not significant. They are probably comparable to those of an equivalent amount of lead. Both tend to cause heavy metal problems when ingested but the uranium has no significant additional problems because of radiation because it is (duh) depleted. That means depleted in the isotopes that are radioactive. Depleted uranium is less radioactive than natural uranium.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Methane, the New Greenhouse Gas

A new analysis indicates that methane plays a much bigger role than previously thought.
"According to new calculations, the impacts of methane on climate warming may be double the standard amount attributed to the gas. The new interpretations reveal methane emissions may account for a third of the climate warming from well-mixed greenhouse gases between the 1750s and today. The IPCC report, which calculates methane’s affects once it exists in the atmosphere, states that methane increases in our atmosphere account for only about one sixth of the total effect of well-mixed greenhouse gases on warming."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Pulling Threads Together

Matt Yglesias makes a case that claims, 1) the British second source for the Iraqi uranium search is either not credible on its own or is based ultimately on the forgeries once-removed, and 2) noone in the administration is at all interested in finding the ultimate source of the forgeries because they knew they were fake when they planted them in the first place.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

The noose tightens

It seems the more we dig into this cover-blowing issue, the more the noose tightens around his pudgy little neck. On Meet the Press:
"RUSSERT: When one is given classified clearance, they are asked to sign an oath, and they are given a briefing book with form. Standard Form 312, it's called.

And if you read this briefing book, it says this:

'Before...confirming the accuracy of what appears in the public source, the signer of [the] SF 312 must confirm through an authorized official that the information has, in fact, been declassified. If it has not...confirmation of its accuracy is also an unauthorized disclosure.'

So by confirming a story from Robert Novak or sharing information with Matt Cooper, no matter where it came from, if, in fact, it was classified information, without seeking to determine whether it was declassified, it is an unauthorized disclosure."
Not only was confirming that Plame was CIA a violation but mentioning anything about how the CIA selected Wilson was a violation. It doesn't matter if the info came from a reporter. If Rove did not explicitly know that these things had been declassified, he done a baaaaad thing.

Time for a media strike

Everyone seems to be wringing their hands about how reporters have become trapped by their need for access. This has led to lousy reporting by even the most prestigious media outlets. Almost all have found themselves co-opted into being nothing more than a straight channel for the administration. What our media have either forgotten (or chosen to ignore) is that this trap cuts both ways. They have forgotten that the administration needs them as much as the media need access. Administration officials have said to the media, “If you write bad things about us, we will stop talking to you.” This has, so far, successfully cowed them into compliance. It’s time for our reporters to say, “If you burn me by giving me misinformation, I will stop allowing you to use my resources to spread your message.” Our media has lost its awareness of its own power in dealing with officialdom. Only when both sides have a proper appreciation of the balance of power they hold in their hands can we hope to have properly balanced output from both. It’s time our media restore the lost balance by calling the administration’s bluff. It would be telling if McClellan held a press conference and the only reporters there were from the Talon News and Fox while the rest of the media were out there digging up the truth instead.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The Hole in the Right-wing Version of the Joe Wilson Story

Joshua Micah Marshall reports that the evidence is clear that the reason Wilson's version of the Iraq-Niger connection (or absence thereof) didn't make it into the administration's consciousness was that the intelligence community had learned that such information was going to be ignored anyway.
"The explanation confected by the authors of the SSCI report was the rather contradictory one that either Wilson's trip generated no substantive information or that it in fact tended to confirm suspicions of an illict uranium traffic between the two countries. No one who's looked at the evidence involved believes that. Nor is that cover story compatible with the CIA's subsequent and repeated attempts to prevent the White House from using the Niger story.

Here in Pincus's reporting -- before the evidentiary and political battle lines were drawn -- is the answer: 'Information not consistent with the administration agenda was discarded.'

It never made it back to Cheney's office because it wasn't what Cheney's office wanted to hear. They were looking for evidence of an Iraqi nuclear program, not ambiguous data and certainly not evidence that contradicted the claim.

In this key respect, the dismissal of the information is displaced from the VP's office to the CIA. And the reason is that they already understood what was wanted and what wasn't.

I think it's still an open question whether it made it back up the chain or not. But this remains the key question. Why did all the disproving evidence not get reflected in public statements? And why, if there was no disproving evidence -- as the harpies of the right want us to believe -- was the CIA constantly trying to get the White House to stop using it?"
If Wilson was so wrong, why did the CIA keep pushing his version of the facts? While the White House was scoring points with an Iraqi nuclear threat, the CIA kept trying to pull the forgery-based data from the narrative. In the end it is not the least bit surprising that we found no nuclear threat in Iraq because our government had made the mistake of jumping to a conclusion that meshed with their fantasies. When power forces fantasy to triumph over fact really bad things can illegal wars.

And that's the real crime that was committed. Our leaders, in their righteous zeal, intentionally blinded themselves to the facts. THAT is why we are in this mess and for THAT they need to be held accountable.

Like I've said before, sometimes it seems that the only way to win is to bet a bluff. But the guy sitting there with the pat hand is going to walk away with your stake. These jokers went all-in and lost it. It's time for them to leave the table.

The Priorities are Clear

When the Bush administration announced a heightened security alert during the week of the Democratic Convention, they managed to screw up our only mole in Al
In its effort to either prove that the alert was serious, or to try and scare people during the Dem Convention, the administration gave the press too much information about WHY they raised the alert. This put the media on the trail of Khan - they found him, and they published his name.

Because the US let the cat out of the bag, the media got a hold of Khan's name and published the fact that he had been captured - his Al Qaeda contacts thus found out their "buddy" was actually a mole, and they fled. Our sole source inside Al Qaeda was destroyed. As a result, the Brits had to have a high speed chase to catch some of Khan's Al Qaeda associates as they fled, and, according to press reports, the Brits and Pakistanis both fear that some slipped away.
These were the same people that have now given us the London bombings. Way to go, George! In the War or Terra politics is more important than actually doing anything about the terrorists. Londoners should be truly thankful for the continued bungling that has enhanced their work. They couldn't ask for a better White House occupant than George W. Bush. (And that political guy, Rove, too.)

More Rove

From Timothy Noah:
"To believe that Rove is innocent of any wrongdoing, you have to believe that Rove had all these conversations with journalists about Wilson's wife being a CIA employee, and then, over a course of several days, never asked anyone in the government whether what the journalists were telling him was true. I suppose anything is possible. But that stretches credulity to the breaking point."

Prayer no plus in heart surgery

A rigorous clinical study has determined that prayer does not improve the statistics in heart surgery. I think prayer gets a bad rap because people have fairy-tale ideas of how it works. Prayer is not a magic way to influence events you have no control over. Rather prayer is a way that you can prepare yourself to deal with the circumstances life hands you. Prayer can prepare you to capitalize on favorable circumstances better and mitigate unfavorable ones. Prayer affects the person doing the praying and it only has an affect if that person "puts feet on the prayer" and actually does something.

Why Rove did it

To make some sense out of what was going on with Karl Rove back in 2003 we need to recall the climate of the time. Wolfowitz testified that the reasons within the administration for going to war with Iraq were the threat of WMD, support for terrorism, and the treatment of the Iraqi people. There was the most agreement on the WMD item. There was much more disagreement on the terrorism aspect. Many doubted the strength of Saddam’s terrorism threat. His connection to the enemy of the moment, bin Laden, was tenuous at best. And just to helping Iraqis didn’t seem like enough of a justification to risk the lives of American troops. Therefore the WMD threat was seen as the most essential piece of the plan to go to war.

There’s a little known aspect of British law that comes into play here. In the U.S. it is illegal for the government officials to lie to investigating authorities. But in the U.K. lying and evasion by government officials is not a criminal offense and happens routinely. In fact our intelligence community uses this little wrinkle to send out disinformation. You subcontract the desired lie to a compliant British official and it gets into play and no one is the wiser. This is something that needs to be remembered any time anyone publicly relies on statements made by British officials. They don’t have the same standard of veracity to which we are accustomed on this side of the pond.

When George Bush relied on British statements that they had intelligence about Iraq actively seeking uranium from Africa, there is no reason to believe that what the Brits were saying was, in fact, true. The administration knew that the African link was blown in the States but he could get mileage from the British claim.

But the last thing the war party needed was a credible witness going around telling everyone that the African link was completely bogus and based on poorly forged documents. They needed to make sure that the wheels didn’t fall off. Wilson had to be neutralized as much as possible and an example had to be made of him in case anyone else thought about getting righteous. Rove’s mission was to smear Wilson to the press and make him look like a low-level has-been hack. And what better way than to spin his trip to Niger at the behest of the CIA as a make-work job supplied by his CIA wife? It worked just long enough to get the congressional approval Bush needed to launch his war.

When the press puts these dots together it won’t be Rove doing the frog-march but Bush, Cheney, and Tony Blair. But it’s too late for the families who have lost loved ones in a war that has insufficient justification. If there were justice in this world there would be war crime proceedings against the leaders who got us into it.

Friday, July 15, 2005

To Boldly Go (Again)

Phasers and force fields may not be as far-fetched as one might suppose. Lightning strikes because it follows a conduit from sky to ground that is prepared by an ionizing plasma precursor. That's why lightning bolts are jagged. As the precursor forms it is blown about by air currents and doesn't form a straight line. Some folks have found a way to form plasma precursors with low-power pulsed lasers. The taser weapon already in use requires wired needles to be physically propelled into the target. Now imagine being able to set up a similar circuit wirelessly. You could either deliver a killing jolt or just enough juice to incapacitate.

Another outgrowth of this research is the creation of a small, microscopically thin, but highly energetic plasma field that is capable of standing up to atmospheric pressure. You could have a vacuum on one side and normal air on the other. AND you could pass things through it without destroying the vacuum. Interesting.

Scientists bristle at House inquiry

What's Joe Barton up to?
"In a July 13 letter to U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner said the committee's requests to the researchers for information not only on their recent studies but also their life's work 'give the impression of a search for some basis on which to discredit these particular scientists and findings, rather than a search for understanding.'"
Rather than judging work on its own merits it seems someone is fishing for way to discredit researchers based upon their professional pedigree. Only those with good pedigrees merit attention. If that were true we would not have ever heard of the work of the brilliant Indian math genius, Ramanujan. That's what is enduring and worthwhile about science, the work speaks for itself, good or bad.

Time Travel

Science fiction writers take note! New theoritical work indicates that time travel is possible if you can warp spacetime into a torus. But still it's a pretty big if.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Lame Ideas

Given that the London bombers grew up is a liberal democracy I think it's time to throw away the lame idea that liberal democracies are some kind of cure for terrorism. Even a stopped clock like John Derbyshire is right every now and then. Of course, that disconnects the war in Iraq from any war on terror.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Dang science

It's getting really hard to be good fundamental Christian these days. For example, if homosexuality were just an acquired bad habit or even addictive there could very well be as many former homosexuals around these days as there are reformed smokers. The difference is that not very many smokers say the "discovered" that they were smokers, especially before they took that first puff. The addiction of smoking has a clear-cut cause. Homosexuals, on the other hand, generally find themselves attracted to the same sex long before they act on it. If homosexuality was as "easy" to reverse as tobacco addiction you would think that there would be a number of folks who reversed their orientation on their own. Instead only those attached to the fundamentalist "Christian" orientation conversion idea can be found. The scientific community is becoming more and more convinced that it's just not possible.
"Supporters of the biological explanation for homosexuality have the weight of science on their side. All of the major medical and psychological professional organizations — from the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association on down — state that sexuality is predominantly determined by chemical, hormonal and genetic conditions in the womb. They are clear in declaring that homosexuality is not a disease or a pathology that can be changed; most go a step further and strongly question whether it is even ethical for a medical professional to help clients try to change their sexuality.

Public opinion appears to be turning their way. In a series of polls by the Gallup organization over the last three decades, the percentage of Americans who agree that homosexuality is not a choice has slowly doubled, to nearly 40 percent. More striking is that acceptance of homosexual behavior is dramatically higher among younger Americans than among their parents: A 2001 survey by Zogby International and Hamilton College found that more than 80 percent of high school seniors nationwide believed that gay men and lesbians should be “accepted by society.”

And yet events like Love Welcomes All remain crucially important, organizers said. They may have the science, and they may even have the moral high ground, but the other side has a powerful megaphone in the well-oiled machinery of conservative Christian activism.

The ex-gay movement is a “big industry,” said Dr. Doug Haldeman, a psychology professor at the University of Washington who is president of the Association of Practicing Psychologists."

Cold Fusion Arrives

Current Purdue experiments clearly show the markers for fusion. When bubbles created by ultrasound collapse, the energy is high enough to fuse deuterium.
A key component of the experiment was a glass test chamber about the size of two coffee mugs filled with a liquid called deuterated acetone, which contains a form of hydrogen known as deuterium, or heavy hydrogen. The researchers exposed the test chamber to subatomic particles called neutrons and then bombarded the liquid with a specific frequency of ultrasound, which caused cavities to form into tiny bubbles. The bubbles then expanded to a much larger size before imploding, apparently with enough force to cause thermonuclear fusion reactions.

The Rove Method

James Moore, a long-time Rove watcher back in Texas talks about how Rove has always used carefully parsed language to smear people while keeping his hands technically free of the manure. The Plame affair is just another example. A must read.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Cognitive Dissonance

"Bush might have said, “We will stay on the offense, and though terrorists may attack our people and our allies’ people, because they have no respect for human life, we shall prevail,” or words to that effect. Such an affirmation might have been as close to the Churchillian mold as Bush gets, and would have committed no falsehood. But no: On June 28, Bush chose instead an affirmation that had already been falsified (in Madrid) and was almost immediately falsified again, and then repeated it, denying evident fact.

What shall we make of such statements? I can only think that they are meant both to obscure reality and to evoke the sort of sympathetic grunt that affirms, “You know what he means,” when what he means is to depart from meaning altogether. What he means is: It is what it is, I am who I am, fuck you."