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."

The Trouble with America Today

Toyota builds a new Ontario. The labor force and the cost of doing business in the US fails to measure up.
"'The educational level and the skill level of the people down there is so much lower than it is in Ontario,' Fedchun said.

In addition to lower training costs, Canadian workers are also $4 to $5 cheaper to employ partly thanks to the taxpayer-funded health-care system in Canada, said federal Industry Minister David Emmerson.

'Most people don't think of our health-care system as being a competitive advantage,' he said."
Is it time to fix our health-care system and our educational system yet?

Karl Rove -- soft on terror

Olbermann makes the point that Rove must have seen it to be more important to discredit Joe Wilson than to actually protect the identity of a CIA operative who had a big part to play in actually fighting terrorism.
"To paraphrase Mr. Rove, liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers; conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared to ruin the career of one of the country’s spies tracking terrorist efforts to gain weapons of mass destruction -- for political gain.

Politics first, counter-terrorism second -- it’s as simple as that.

In his ‘story guidance’ to Matthew Cooper of Time, Rove did more damage to your safety than the most thumb-sucking liberal or guard at Abu Ghraib. He destroyed an intelligence asset like Valerie Plame merely to deflect criticism of a politician. We have all the damned politicians, of every stripe, that we need. The best of them isn’t worth half a Valerie Plame. And if the particular politician for whom Rove was deflecting, President Bush, is more than just all hat and no cattle on terrorism, he needs to banish Rove -- and loudly."
Unfortunately the behavior is remarkably consistent in this administration in that the specter of terrorism is merely seen as a tool by which to retain and expand power. It says that behind all that talk about terrorism there is really no heartfelt or moral commitment to do anything effective about it. It's all a political charade.

Plame, By Any Other Name

Washington Post Plame Summary

From the video shown by Jon Stewart:
Rove said, "I didn't know her name and I didn't reveal her name."

Newsweek reports that Mark Cooper's email stated 'it was, KR said, wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues who authorized the trip.'

So Rove hasn't made a technically false public statement. We don't know what he told the President nor what he told the principals (if any) of whatever internal investigation was launched in response to the President's statement, "Listen, I know of nobody -- I don't know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I'd like to know it, and we'll take the appropriate action. And this investigation is a good thing."

As the left gets gleefully spun up about prospects of Rove in a frog-march, the right is revving up to defend Rove on the technicalities.

But in whose book is it admirable for a senior White House official to parse his language carefully to avoid a technical lie with the full intent of misleading the public to believe something that is exactly opposite of the facts? Is this what conservative see as proper behavior of those in high office? Is this the kind of thing for which they think medals should be handed out?

And what about Rove and the President? His statement leads one to believe that he is actually intent on finding the leakers. Is he also using carefully parsed language to provide an impression that is diametrically opposed to the facts? That is one chilling possibility. The other possibilities are equally as chilling. Suppose Rove figured his statement to Cooper was secure? Did he then lie or otherwise keep from the President what he had done? When the President said "I'd like to know" in public , did he say, "I don't want to know" to his staff? Or did his staff know without being told that whatever he said publicly was not to be taken seriously?

I don't see any way out of this that doesn't fail the dogshit on the shoes smell test by someone in the car. It will be interesting to see what the spin-meisters come up with because it's got to be a doozy.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The myth of the medical malpractice claims crisis

So, can we put the canard of the medical malpractice crisis to rest now? Stop messing with the courts and go after the real villians are the insurance companies. Go figure.
"New research published in the latest issue of Journal of Empirical Legal Studies examines Texas medical malpractice claims and finds no tort crisis. Instead, the study's authors find that, over a 15-year period, the system was largely stable and generated few significant changes in claim frequencies, payments, or jury verdicts. 'Average payments on medical malpractice claims rose because small claims were squeezed out of the system over time, not because payments on larger claims increased,' the authors explain."
And here's Kevin Drum's take.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Doctors denounce abstinence-only education

While abstinence may sound nice in a perfect world, doctors reject it as a failed hypothesis. This is the problem when people of faith get hold of our public agenda. They carry the faith thing just a wee bit too far.
"Even though there is great enthusiasm in some circles for abstinence-only interventions, the evidence does not support abstinence-only interventions as the best way to keep young people from unintended pregnancy," said Dr. Jonathan Klein, chairman of the academy committee that wrote the new recommendations.