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.