Monday, February 28, 2005

Republican corruption trifecta

Business as usual from Hunter at Daily Kos.
So now we have the DeLay corruption scandals sharing space with conservative "think tanks" using Social Security scare tactics to bilk money from seniors, including a direct connection to USA Next. It's a Republican corruption trifecta.

Social Insecurity

Peter G. Gosselin has a good piece that descibes the kind of society we have created under Republican ideology.

How To Make A Republican Tell The Truth

This idea from the DU finally helps make sense of it all.
"I heard this from someone else over the weekend and it is brilliant:

It works just like the Salada Tea Bags lines, or that game people play with cookie fortunes, where you add the words 'between the sheets' to make a meaningless platitude much more interesting.

All you have to do in order to make Republican domestic policies make sense is take their talking point and add the words '...if you're rich!'

For instance: 'Privatizing social security makes a lot of sense...if you're rich!'

Or, 'Our health care system is the best in the world...if you're rich!'

Or how about, 'The economy under Bush is the strongest it's ever been...if you're rich!'

Just add three little words, and all of a sudden, these bastards are telling the truth.

It's most fun if you do it in a group with one person beginning the talking point and everyone else finishing it in unison. I think it could be productively adapted as a protest tactic for some of those Social Security meet-ups Santorum and friends are doing now, for instance.


THe Plaid Adder"

Friday, February 25, 2005

Australian Outback, Man-made

A new study seems to indicate that the arid landscape of the outback was man-made. Before the arrival of man, Australia was sufficiently lush to drive its own monsoon.

A Titanic Suggestion

James Cameron has some ideas on how to make real science more exciting for the masses. Yes, that James Cameron.

Northwest Droughts are routine

From the University of Washington a study finds that over long time periods big multi-year droughts in the Northwest are not at all unusual.
"'The big lesson is that prolonged low flow years are a normal part of the Columbia Basin's history,' Mantua says. 'The problem is that water in most sub-basins is fully allocated. These demands have gone a long way to eliminating flexibility and buffers needed in the face of drought caused water-supply shortages.'"
As if the current water rights squabbling wasn't already bad enough. With the prospect of long droughts it is going to become an even bigger mess.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Hydroelectric power's dirty secret revealed

All forms of power production has evironmental costs, even hydroelectric. It seems that the CO2 produced by the original inundation and subsequent pool level changes is every bit as significant as that produced by burning fossil fuels.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

BuzzFlash Interviews Jim Wallis

Some good stuff from Brother Jim concerning the place of religion in politics.
But in the public square, religion has to be disciplined by democracy. That means you don’t enter the public square and say I’m religious so I ought to win. Or God has spoken to me directly and I have the fix for Social Security. You say my faith motivates me. It shapes my convictions or it compels me to act on behalf of the poor or peace or whatever.

But then you say, here is my best offering on this question, and I have to persuade my fellow citizens. I have to persuade them that what I think is best for the common good – not that it’s the best religious vision, but it’s best for all of us.

Martin Luther King had a wonderful vision of the beloved community, where everybody had a place at the table, and especially those who were left out and left behind had a front-row seat, you know? But then he said, now we need a civil rights law. And by 1964, he persuaded his fellow citizens and the Congress that this was good for the country. In 1965, we got the Voting Rights Act. So he had to persuade – he and all the civil rights religious leaders, they didn’t say, you know, this should happen because I’m a Baptist or because I’m a Jew. They said this is best for the country. So religion has to operate under the democratic discipline and argue what’s best for the common good.
These are the two ways of bringing God into public life. This is our American history. One is God on our side, and that leads to the worst things in politics. It leads to overconfidence and hubris – triumphalism – and often to bad foreign policy, often to wars, and in this case, now preemptive, unilateral war.

The other way about worrying – praying earnestly if we’re on God’s side – brings into politics the things that we're missing today, like humility and penitence and reflection, and even accountability.

Lincoln got it right. We don’t claim God’s blessing on our politics and policies. We don’t claim that God is on our side. We worry, we pray, we just always examine ourselves to see if we are on God’s side. And if Lincoln got it right, I think Martin Luther King did it best. With that Bible in one hand and the Constitution in the other hand, he really didn’t pronounce, he persuaded. He didn’t shut people out; he invited everybody in to a moral discourse on politics. And he said we can do better. We can do better than this by our democratic values, by our religious values.

Biology can solve the Social Security debate

William Saletan has an excellent piece on the justification for raising the retirement age and the positive impact it would have on Social Security solvency. But it's like fine ice cream up to the point where he tosses in a dollop of bullshit at the end. He trots out the idea that once the fix is working then would be the time for private accounts. WTF? Wouldn't it be better to give a payroll tax break with the resultant surplus. You know, a little something for the folks who work for a living and didn't make out like bandits on the Bush (hswib) breaks for the rich! Shilling for the bastards, Mr Saletan! Such a waste of a pretty decent talent.

Common Sense

An APA study shows that comprehensive sex ed better at stopping STD's and teen pregnancy than abstenence-only programs.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A Modest Prediction

Speaking in Olympia, WA:
Scott Ritter, appearing with journalist Dahr Jamail yesterday in Washington State, dropped two shocking bombshells in a talk delivered to a packed house in Olympia’s Capitol Theater. The ex-Marine turned UNSCOM weapons inspector said that George W. Bush has "signed off" on plans to bomb Iran in June 2005, and claimed the U.S. manipulated the results of the recent Jan. 30 elections in Iraq.

The Smoke Around Malpractice Insurance

Kevin Drum parses the medical malpractice problem. Contrary to popular wisdom the problem isn't the lawyers, its the insurance companies.
"California is often held out as a model for the nation because we instituted payout caps a couple of decades ago. But so did a lot of states, and it hasn't helped much. What everyone chooses to forget is that California also did something else: it instituted some of the toughest regulations in the country on insurance companies. That's done a lot more to keep malpractice premiums under control than the payout caps.

If the AMA had any sense, they'd team up with the trial lawyers to agree on some sensible restrictions on malpractice suits and then train their collective guns on the insurance companies. That might not be as emotionally satisfying, but on the other hand it might actually work."

Update: Maybe the Swedes have a model for doing just that.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

An Adult Republican

Max Leboutillier, one of the few remaining Republican adults, is trying to get his fellows to wake up.
This Administration needs to get its eye back on the ball - and fast. Sure, Social Security needs a fix down the line. But will we even have a country by the time Social Security is fixed - or will we be buried under a pile of radioactive rubble while Middle Eastern barbarians dance with joy in the streets?
Too little, too late, Max. They have NEVER had their eye on the ball. And they are not going to find it now.

The Truth About Social Security

Reference link.

Trouble In Phase-Out Land

A correspondent with Matthew Yglesias notes that the Social Security has become a make-or-break issue for the administration (hswib) and the Repubicanic party. Whatevers happens on this issue will lay the track for the next four years. If the phase-out succeeds our country is screwed but if it fails hopes can be high.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Rove-Gannon Connection?

Dotty Lynch is on the story.
But Rove's dominance of White House and Republican politics, Gannon's aggressively partisan work and the ease with which he got day passes for the White House press room the past two years make it hard to believe that he wasn't at least implicitly sanctioned by the 'boy genius.' Rove, who rarely gave on-the-record interviews to the MSM (mainstream media), had time to talk to GOPUSA, which owns Talon.

GOPUSA and Talon are both owned by Bobby Eberle, a Texas Republican and business associate of conservative direct-mail guru Bruce Eberle who says that Bobby is from the 'Texas branch of the Eberle clan.' Bobby Eberle told The New York Times that he created Talon to build a news service with a conservative slant and 'if someone were to see 'GOPUSA,' there's an instant built-in bias there.' No kidding.
Update: Keith Olbermann has some thoughts.

Update 2: Eric Boehlert points out that the flakiness is all too clear.

Money Grab in the Northwest

From a letter sent by Jay Inslee (D. Wa 1st Cong. dist) to his constituents. One of the rewards of being in a blue state is the administration (hswib) thinks it's OK to make up for its tax giveaway to the rich by extracting money from consumers and destroying jobs in the Northwest. And as has become almost a defining characteristic, they have to lie to trump up any plausibility for their policy proposals.
As you may know, the President's budget proposes that the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), supplier of 60% of the power in Washington State, raise its rates up to 20% a year for the next four or five years.

BPA, as you may know, is the federal agency that sells the power from the Columbia River Power System, a network of hydroelectric dams along the Columbia River. BPA is a nonprofit entity, selling the power at the cost it takes to generate and transmit it, without adding charges. The Administration's proposal would have BPA raise its rates on us to generate profits that would go back to the U.S. Treasury in Washington, D.C.
The Bush Administration's proposal to require BPA to sell its energy at market-based rates rather than cost-based rates, according to a McCullough Research report, would cost the Northwest 40,000 to 60,000 jobs over the next five years, a hit our region can scarcely afford at a time when we are just beginning to recover five years after the West Coast energy crisis. For this reason, all of Washington State's representatives in Congress, Democrats and Republicans, are united in opposing this proposal.
I recently questioned new Department of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman during a Energy and Commerce Committee hearing about the rationality of the Administration's proposed rate increases for the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA). Secretary Bodman suggested that the legacy of charging cost-based rates to their Northwest consumers is subsidized by the American taxpayer. This characterization of BPA is inaccurate: BPA customers repay all of BPA's costs including paying interest on Bonneville's old, appropriated debt and any funds borrowed from the U.S. Treasury.

While I am honored that the Secretary could spend time answering my questions on Bonneville power rates, I disagree with the Secretary's idea that the federal government is somehow subsidizing power consumers in the Northwest when the BPA charges us cost-based rates. Bonneville, which produces power overwhelmingly with publicly owned resources, pays back every cent of its costs to the federal treasury. We do not expect government run libraries to make a profit and we do not expect government run Power Marketing Administration to turn a profit either. The current proposal aimed at changing the BPA rates is illegal and I will continue to oppose the Administration's attempts to impose the equivalent of a very large energy tax on Washington State consumers.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The True Color of Greenspan

This makes me mad enough to spit:
"So: raise payroll taxes on the middle class to create a surplus, then cut taxes on the rich to wipe out the surplus and create a deficit, and then sorrowfully announce that the resulting deficits mean that the Social Security benefits already paid for by the middle class need to be cut.

A normal person would at least be embarrassed by all this. But Alan Greenspan has never been a mere mortal, has he?"

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Fighting Moderates

Krugman on Dean in the DNC:
"It doesn't represent a turn to the left: Mr. Dean is squarely in the center of his party on issues like health care and national defense. Instead, Mr. Dean's political rejuvenation reflects the new ascendancy within the party of fighting moderates, the Democrats who believe that they must defend their principles aggressively against the right-wing radicals who have taken over Congress and the White House."

Monday, February 14, 2005

Political meddling alleged in US wildlife service

Not until this administration has the general science community found itself under such a political onslaught .
Many scientists at the US Fish and Wildlife Service say they have been pushed to alter or withdraw scientific findings on the protection of species for political reasons, according to a new survey.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Nukes in North Korea?

I want to go on record as one who is skeptical that North Korea actually has a working nuclear device. At the moment it is in their interest as seen through their eyes to "spoof" us on it. They have generated enough smoke with their nuclear programs to make the claim credible but until they either produce a weapon for examination or explode one, I think there remains plenty of room for doubt. It would make sense for them to be playing the rest of the world on their nuclear capabilities. It has a parallel with the situation of Saddam Hussein. He saw it in his interest to appear to have WMD even if he did not in fact have any.

Science marches on

But never in a straight line. It seems that whale blubber compounds that look like they are the result of industrial contamination are actually naturally-occurring. This is just going to make it more difficult to identify the effects of industrial pollution. But the good news is that thankfully it isn't as bad as it had appeared.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Leprosy's decline caused by rise of TB

But not how you would think. Leprosy takes long-term intimate contact to spread. Since the two pathogens are similar leprosy sufferers in the Middle Ages were predisposed to catch TB. As people crowded into cities and TB became prevalent, the lepers were the first to catch it and die from it. TB selectively thinned the ranks of the lepers to the point that leprosy just became a rarer disease. This counters the earlier assumption that TB somehow transmitted an immunity to leprosy.

Heart Attack Damage May Soon Be Healed

From bone marrow-derived stem cells there is a potential therapy that can induce damaged heart tissue to regenerate after a heart attack.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Prions Found In Organs Other Than The Brain

It just makes sense that if an animal is sick it's probably not a good idea to eat it. The meat producers may just have to take diseased animals out of the food chain.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Ten things to know about the federal budget

For reference in budget discussions. Clearing the fog.

Looking at priorities

While it's clear the the Bush (hswib) proposed budget is not really serious it remains an interesting study in how it reflects the administration priorities. Many domestic programs are up for big cuts but there seems to be plenty of money for defense items that the Pentagon would just as soon put on the back burner like a network of survelliance satelites and a blue-sky upgrade of ground combat systems known as the

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Juan Cole vs Jonah Goldberg

And it's not a pretty sight. Jonah needs to back to the farm club he came from.

DFA makes the list

Not allowed in in Fargo:
"The whodunit mystery surrounding the do-not-admit list for President Bush's Fargo visit still hasn't been solved, but clues uncovered Friday indicate a worker with the White House advance team may have been the culprit.

This comes just one day after spokesmen for the White House and North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven said the list was the result of 'an overzealous volunteer.'

The list contained the names of 42 people who were not supposed to be given tickets to Bush's speech Thursday. Thirty-three of them belong to the local progressive group Democracy for America."
What beats me is why any Democracy For America person would want to put up with the anguish of having to listen to Bush (hswib) in person.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Dooh Nibor Taxes

Taking from the poor and giving to the rich, tra-lah.

Herd Mentality

With just a few simple rules the behavior of herds has been modelled fairly well. To move a herd in a given direction all it takes is a few individuals who have a directional preference and a desire by all to stick together.
"'It demonstrates the power of the little guy,' said Daniel Rubenstein, chair of ecology and evolutionary biology. 'You don't need avowed leaders, you don't need complex signaling.'

In the simulations, a small number of 'informed' individuals was just about as effective in leading a large group as a small one. When the size of the group increased from 10 to 200, the percentage of informed individuals needed to accurately guide the group reduced from approximately 50 percent to less than 5 percent. As a result, the number of informed individuals required to lead a small group was about the same as the number needed to lead a large one, Couzin said"
So if you are one of those folks who feels slightly out of step with the herd, don't give up. You could actually be quite influential.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Bush (hswib) Whopper

Timothy Noah:
"But antitax conservatives should feel betrayed. As I've noted before, President Bush isn't just a president who lies routinely. He's a president who lies routinely to his friends."

Update: The most convincing liars are those so devoid of conscience that they feel no compunction about doing it. I place Mr. Bush (hswib) in that category.


On the SOTU address from House Republicans. Very, very skeptical of the Bush (hswib) plan.

While Nero Fiddled....

...the world got warmer and warmer. This report indicates that we need to cut emissions like it was already too late, because it is.