Sunday, April 27, 2008

Republican Tax Insanity May Continue

Paul Krugman:
"Proposing to extend past unaffordable tax cuts has the same effect on the budget as proposing new unaffordable tax cuts. The bottom line is that the combination of the Bush tax cuts and McCain’s extensions and revisions would leave the federal government without sufficient revenue to do its job; no amount of bobbing and weaving can change that fact. And it’s really sad to see Holtz-Eakin lending his reputation to this sort of thing."

Growing your own

William Saletan finds something interesting.
"People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has just offered a $1 million prize to anyone who develops a commercially viable 'in vitro chicken-meat product.' The catch is that the product can't contain or entail the use of 'animal-derived products, except for starter cells obtained in the initial development stages.'"

Reactors in Canada

Dan Yurman speculates on whether recent moves in the Canadian nuclear power may have affected the still-delayed announcement of the site of the new Areva enrichment plant.

How We'll Know When We've Won

From the conservative organ, the Weekly Standard:
"Virtually everyone who wants to win this war agrees: Success will have been achieved when Iraq is a stable, representative state that controls its own territory, is oriented toward the West, and is an ally in the struggle against militant Islamism, whether Sunni or Shia."

The laughable but sad part is that these guys really think that this can happen. Talk about delusional!

Friday, April 25, 2008

New Source for Biofuels

It seems the good lads at my alma mater have been plugging away. This article spotlights a method of producing easily-processed, lignin-free cellulose with cyano-bacteria.

Combine that with the process from UMass listed below to produce hydro-carbon products from cellulose and you may really have something.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Not so Live Blogging of Death with Dignity Forum

Public Service Informational Forum
Cosponsored by the Tri-City Democrats and the Associated Students of Columbia Basin College.

The goal of the forum series is to provide factual information on initiatives and referenda that potentially will be on this year’s ballot.

This forum is about the Washington State Initiative 1000.

In Laurel Piippo’s introduction of the speakers she noted that her grandfather insisted that constitutions of the states carved out of the Dakota Territories include the rights of initiative and referendum.

Moderator will be Dan Blasdel, Frankln County Coroner.

Dr. Linda Olson is from Tacoma.
She works with the Death with Dignity campaign. She has been involved with this issue for more than 50 years. From a career in nursing she has gone on to a PhD from University of Washington. With a specialty in ethics she has been a nurse educator and professor of nursing at Pacific Lutheran University and the University Washington. She has followed the Oregon law from its inception.

Chris Carlson is from Spokane.
He has a radio program there. He is a founding member of the Coalition against Assisted Suicide. He has pursued journalism, public relations, and political life. He founded the Gallatin Group public affairs firm. A former press secretary to Idaho Governor Cecil D. Andrus, Chris directed the U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Public Affairs during the governor’s four-year term as Secretary of the Interior under President Jimmy Carter.
Following his position in Washington, D.C., Chris was appointed to the Northwest Power Planning Council by Idaho Governor John V. Evans. In 1984, he became regional vice president of public affairs for Kaiser Aluminum in Spokane
To start the thing off Blasdel read the text of Initiative 1000.
“This measure would permit terminally ill, competent, adult Washington residents medically predicted to die within six months to request and self-administer lethal medication prescribed by a physician. The measure requires two oral and one written request, two physicians to diagnose the patient and determine the patient is competent, a waiting period, and physician verification of an informed patient decision. Physicians, patients and others acting in good faith compliance would have criminal and civil immunity.”

The forum rules are that responses to questions are limited to 1 minute. No personal attacks are allowed.

Chris Olson won the toss and elected to speak second.

Opening remarks from Chris Carlson:
He offered his thanks to sponsors for putting the forum together. He considers the right to petition is an important right but key phrase is “when legislature refuses to act”. On this particular issue the legislature has not had a chance to act. It has not been explicitly brought before the legislature such that the legislature could go on record one way or another. The failure of this one technicality is one of the reasons he opposes the initiative.

Mr. Carlson was told he had less than 6 months to live by 2 doctors. He had a rare form of cancer that was at stage 4. He would qualify under the initiative. But he decided to be aggressive about pursuing treatment. He was able to access an experimental treatment that has kept the cancer at bay. He considers fighting for life to be natural.

He sees fatal flaws in Initiative 1000. He worries about how economics would play into the process. Some past proponents have said that Initiative 1000 would save money by not spending it on doomed efforts to preserve life. He fears this economic consideration will take control of the process. Another flaw is that it does not require notification of next of kin. He fears that very young people can be stampeded into it for financial reasons. There is no mandated counseling for the understandable depression that frequently accompanies an imminent terminal prognosis. He believes there is a flaw in the Oregon law. There is no requirement for doctor to report the number of people avail themselves of the option and no investigative mechanism to audit whether it is being used properly. The data being used by the proponents may be flawed.

Many states have rejected initiatives of this sort.

Mr. Carlson fears that life will be seen as having a determinate value instead of priceless.
He admits he has signed an advance directive to prevent the use of heroic techniques to keep him alive if and when the time comes.

Hospice nurses say most pain is manageable and pain should not be a reason for terminating a life.

He sees this as suicide and objects that under the initiative and the Oregon law that doctors are allowed to list the disease as the cause of death rather than suicide..

Dr. Linda Olson’s opening remarks:
Olson will not respond to Carlson’s specifics. She makes the point that the law allows the choice. The law allows the patients to be in control of how they die when death is inevitable. It is rooted in the concept individual rights. She reiterated the safeguards, some of which Carlson criticized. The structure is such that it is completely voluntary. In fact very few have actually used the Oregon law but every terminal patient has benefited because they can choose from a fuller range of options. In Oregon hospice use is quite high. Oregon patients have access to better pain control than most. The experienced statistics are that approximately only 1 out of 1000 terminally ill patients actually requests the option. Of those, only 1 out 6 qualify as eligible. Of the people who are given the option only 2 out of 3 actually use it. In the deaths of 36,000 terminal patients only 46 were self-administered. The experience of the law as actually applied is that it does not stampede people into death. Sometimes having the option actually gets people to fight harder to live.

The law does not affect insurance or survivor benefits since the cause of death is not listed as suicide. She sees the law as a benefit to the citizens.

The editorial board of the Oregonian newspaper (the major Portland metropolitan paper), was initially against the law. But ti has changed its mind. They wrote, “The dire consequences predicted did not pan out.” No abuses have been found.
On the question of medical expense and economic impact the usual case is that by the time people apply for Death with Dignity all the expenses have all been paid out and everything that can be done has been done.

The moderator then gave the speakers an opportunity to speak to some prepared questions.

How is mentally competency determined?
Olsen: Mental competency is an issue for things other than assisted death. The mental competency standards used in other contexts are applied here.
Carlson: The assessment of competency is outside of my expertise. But suicide is an irrational act. Just asking for the opportunity to commit suicide indicates to me that a person isn’t competent.

What effects would this have on the family unit?
Carlson: I see this as bad for family unit because a person can cut the family out of the decision process.
Olson: In 95% of the cases the individuals talked with family about it. One can decide to withhold other means of medical treatment as Mr. Carlson has done without including the family. I don’t see this as much different than that..

What are the legal ramifications to previously written wills?
Olson: I don’t know that there are any.
Carlson: I’m not a lawyer but I can envision a scenario in which an assisted death could be challenged as a sign of incompetence.

How is this better than a living will?
Carlson: I don’t see it as better. I wonder why people want government into how they deal with a terminal illness. But I concede that there is the gray area.
Olsen: I see this as complementing living will. Sometime the living wills are not honored. This gives the person sure control.

What are results or problems from Oregon?
Olson: I think the results are good and we couldn’t find any problems.
Carlson: I disagree. I think the way the Oregon law is structure the data collected may very well be bad. I can cite a case where the drugs didn’t work. Activist groups have a list of such cases available.

Now there were questions from the audience.

In the Hippocratic Oath life is considered as the ultimate purpose. Has that changed?
Olson: At end of life the duties of preserving life and reducing suffering intersect. What is the point of allowing suffering to continue when death can not be kept at bay?
Carlson: No, the charge in the oath is to do no harm. Doctors don’t want this law. Professional medical organizations do not want it. Doctors don’t want to be forced to tell patients about the death option.

Would you be more willing in severe cases with intractable pain, declining mental capacity, and sure and painful death to support this law?
Carlson: No. Pain can be handled. There is a broader issue present about access to the good pain medications.
Olson: Yes. Not all pain is physical. There is the indignity of how one dies with some of these illnesses that drugs don’t begin to touch.

What about people taking their lives in a more dramatic fashion?
Olson: This should be avoided. It is not a good thing.
Carlson: Strangely enough I agrees with Dr Olson on this point. I think people should do all that they can to stay alive.

Has the legislature had any hearings on this issue?
Olson: Legislators won’t touch this issue because of the controversy it could potentially be brought against them..

Does this law justify self-determination? We don’t have to subscribe to someone else’s definition of competency.
Olson: There are standards of mental competency in our legal system whether we like it or not.
Carlson: I see the proponents making too much of the issue as choice issue. I think that this law would be a step toward the state defining when the “choice” can be taken. I find it curious that often the same people who object to capital punishment by injection also support death in a similar fashion with assisted suicide.

[At this point I had to leave so I don’t have any information about the closing remarks.]

Appeals court upholds search of laptop

If you are crossing the border don't forget to sanitize that computer.
In a closely watched search-and-seizure case, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court's decision to toss evidence of alleged child pornography found on a traveler's computer at Los Angeles International Airport.

Green Gasoline

Researchers at UMass Amherst recently published a new method of refining hydrocarbons from cellulose, paving the way to turn wood scraps into gasoline, diesel fuel, Tupperware—anything, essentially, that’s normally refined from petroleum.

Gasoline from cellulose at $1.00 per gallon sounds like a Saudi nightmare.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Straight Talk: Derailed.....again

McCain's earmark spiel numbers are all over the map. And none of them are correct. It's worse than a stopped clock.

Get a Grip!

Ben Stein's new movie, Expelled, is generating a small storm because it's poking fun at evolution. The ID crowd are lining up behind it in large numbers. But the joke is on them. Remember, Ben is a comic with tongue deep in the recesses of his cheek. Far from a critique of evolution, Ben recycles the common batch of fallacies often believed by people who know little about how evolution actually works.

In the end the movie has served as a wonderful baitpile gathering ill-informed flies of all colors both pro- and anti-evolution.

This is rich.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

That Capital Gains Canard Again and Again

Reporters that know little like Charles Gibson of ABC News and candidates that know even less like John McCain spout the lie again and again. But in fact Experts Agree That Capital Gains Tax Cuts Lose Revenue Experts Agree That Capital Gains Tax Cuts Lose Revenue. So smarten up, people!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Clinton Slams Democratic Activists

In this quote:
"At a small closed-door fundraiser after Super Tuesday, Sen. Hillary Clinton blamed what she called the 'activist base' of the Democratic Party -- and in particular -- for many of her electoral defeats, saying activists had 'flooded' state caucuses and 'intimidated' her supporters, according to an audio recording of the event obtained by The Huffington Post."
Hillary seems to be complaining about something.

In my experience in my local caucus it was the Clinton observers who were all over the process. Admittedly they didn't do anything overtly intimidating but they made it very clear that the process was being carefully watched. I didn't have a problem with that because I know it is important in an aggressive campaign to exercise due diligence. That comes with the territory.

But the above quote looks like pot-and-kettle to me. It was the Clinton campaign that flexed its organizational muscles at our caucus much more than the Obama people.

Please, oh please, stop projecting like Republicans.

Eat Green, Eat Global, but Don't Eat Meat

An audit of greenhouse gas emissions shows that transportation isn't a significant part of the food production greenhouse gas equation. Red meat is the biggest source by far of food-related greenhouse gas production.
Environmentally savvy shoppers may want to take note.

"It seems much easier to shift one day of my beef consumption a week to chicken or vegetables, than going through and eating only Jerusalem artichokes for three months in the winter," says Weber, a "vegetarian bordering on vegan."
Final delivery "food-miles" make up just 1% of the greenhouse emissions of red meat, and 11% for fruits and vegetables.

To drive his point home, Weber calculated that a completely local diet would reduce a household's greenhouse emissions by an amount equivalent to driving a car 1600 km fewer per year. He assumed the car travels 10.6 km per litre of petrol (25 mpg). Switching from red meat to veggies just one day per week would spare 1860 km of driving.

"The differences between eating habits are very, very striking," Weber says.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What Gregoire license plate scandal?

You just have to smile shake your head at the Washington State Republicans. They are soooo desperate. The happened to see an Oregon license on the bus Chris Gregoire is using to tour the state. And they just couldn't help to project their own version of reality in which they believe Washington has a bad business climate. Chris Mulick and the bus company counter the Republican fantasy with a few facts.

These Republicans are similar to the ones who have run our nation for so long in that their beliefs are more important to them than the facts. And they prove it time after time. The insidious thing about that illusion is that it is self-perpetuating. Fact-checking them is pointless because, for them, facts have no value anyway.

Washington voters have a clear choice. They can choose leaders for whom facts matter. Or they can choose people for whom they don't. But one thing you can count on. Washington voters will get the kind of government they deserve.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Rep. Richard Hastings Retires

I have it from a usually reliable source that the incumbent of the Washington 4th Congressional District, Richard Hastings will retire and not seek re-election this year. This is in spite of the fact that Karl Rove actually came to town last month to talk him out of it. I don't have any information on what Karl may have offered Hastings to run for yet another term.

Of course, I could be wrong...

I guess it looks like I am wrong. The good non-doctor Hastings has indeed announced his candidacy. I guess the race is on now.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Gregoire, Rossi, and polls

My local television station just reported that Gregoire has a slim 1 point lead in the polls over Rossi. What the television station failed to make clear (being the weak reporters they are) is that the polls have a 4% margin of error. This means that the real number is within 4% of the reported number. In other words, instead of a 1 point lead the correct report should be that Gregoire could have as much as a 5 point lead or a 3 point deficit.

Please take note that this may very well be the high water mark for the Rossi campaign. Dino has been campaigning for some months now while Gregoire has been taking care of business with the legislature in session. Only today did the Governor begin her campaign in earnest. Now the money can start coming in and she can start putting her message out there. Dino has been raising money and actively campaigning unopposed.

The governor has become more popular since her election by proving to be capable and effective in dealing with problems that have plagued the state for years. Dino still thinks he is on a level playing field. He has nothing new to offer, no accomplishments to tout. He is still using the same tired message he used when they both were untested in the executive office. Now that Chris has started her campaign Rossi has to share the stage. On that stage next to Chris stands a record of actions that can drown his plaintive voice. His numbers are going nowhere but south.

How big is a bit?

A recent development has been able to demonstratea memory bit on the spin of a single electron. We've come a long way from ferrite cores to single molecules on which the flip-flop of the spin of a single electron can be controlled and measured.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

LD Caucuses

It looks like this year's marathon caucus experience was undergone by most Democrats in Washington state. Due to the large attendance, the lengthy ballots, and a computer breakdown the bitter end of the 8th LD Caucus wasn't until 6 in the evening with a 10 AM start.

They're At It Again, Ma!

The Tri-City Herald published an editorial critical of what they perceived as the reluctance of Governor Gregoire in supporting the construction of an AREVA uranium enrichment plant in the state. Today they backtracked when they were told by the governor that the reported reluctance was simply not the case.

Our editorial Thursday morning said we wanted to hear from the governor regarding the future of Washington's nuclear industry.
It didn't take long.
Before lunch, Gov. Chris Gregoire called to let us know we'd gotten the wrong idea about her thoughts on a new uranium enrichment plant in Richland.
If we've been laboring under a misconception, we're happy to admit it.
She'd welcome the expansion of Areva's footprint in Washington, Gregoire said.
The international energy giant employs about 1,000 people in Washington. If Richland is selected for the uranium plant, the number would jump by about 400 more.
Yes, the governor mentioned to the head of Areva's U.S. division during a recent phone conversation that there'd be some regulatory hurdles to clear if Areva chooses Richland for the new plant.
But our editorial missed the mark when it described Gregoire's support as conditional, she said.
If her earlier remarks to the Herald about wastes from the plant sounded like she harbored concerns, they weren't meant that way.
Washingtonians need to hear that depleted uranium left over from the enrichment process will be handled properly if Richland is selected for the plant.
But Areva is a good corporate citizen of Washington, and Gregoire made clear she's confident the company will continue to act responsibly.
Gregoire added that her recent phone conversations with Michael McMurphy, president and CEO of Areva's U.S. operations, "couldn't have been more positive."
The Herald's editorial (which incidentally attributed the phone call to the wrong Areva official) was prompted partly out of our frustration with the governor's timing.
With 400 Tri-City jobs on the line, we'd have preferred to hear positive remarks a lot earlier in the process--the demands of the legislative session notwithstanding.
But that was then.
Gregoire's latest comments to the Herald make clear she takes a positive view of Richland's potential for a new plant, and conveyed her support for Areva.
It's good to hear it.

It's clear to me that there was some sloppy reporting here. The original editorial indicates that the writer had the old "West side hates nuclear" story line in mind when they wrote it. It's too bad the Herald wants us to give them a by on their sloppiness but not give the Governor a by on being buried in work with the legislative session. Gregoire has been a great governor and I don't think the people at the Herald can quite get their minds around that.

It's also noted that the retraction editorial above is not linked on the Herald website. Are they hoping the blogging world won't see it?

Contrary to the conventional wisdom that all things nuclear have little political support, both of the state's U.S. Senators, Cantwell and Murray, have expressed clear support for the AREVA plant. And now the governor has done the same.

So take that, my wee little Herald monkeys!

The Character of Dino Rossi

When considering candidates for public office it is alway nice to know a little about how they conduct themselves in private person-to-person encounters.

I was told this story by one of our local officials who had an opportunity to meet personally with Mr. Rossi to advocate for his support for a plan for assistance to the local community. A major government construction project (the Waste Vitrification Plant) was about to commence in the community. The project would significantly increase the demands on local services and infrastructure. The various local governments that would feel those demands had put together a request to the state to share a small portion of the sales tax generated by the construction with the cities that would have to increase their outlays to support the construction. Rossi was an important member of the State Senate committee that would have to approve such a plan.

This official had a meeting with the senator to explain the plan to him so he could make an informed decision about it. Just after she got started in her presentation Dino cut her off, slapped the table, and said, "The state's busted!" He dismissed her abruptly and completely.

So we know what sort of man Dino is. He has no time to hear anyone out who may challenge his preferred agenda. He can not be moved from his preferred course no matter what.

This reminds me of the classic a transcript of a supposed actual radio conversation of a US naval ship with Canadian authorities off the coast of Newfoundland in October, 1995.
Americans: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the North to avoid a collision.
Canadians: Recommend you divert YOUR course 15 degrees to the South.
Americans: This is the Captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: No. I say again, divert YOUR course.
Canadians: This is a lighthouse. Your call.

(Yes, I know that CVN's are named after people and that the Missouri is a battleship.)

We don't want Dino at the helm.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Turd Blossom Photo Ops

Just last week that stinker Karl Rove floated into town offering photo ops for $1000 a snap. It was the Washington State Republican Party's attempt at a fund-raiser.

But what I really want to know is who in this community is willing to pay that kind of money to be around such garbage. The donations have to show up on PDC reporting eventually. What a millstone to be able to hang around the neck of some deserving local Republican!

At the same time that Karl was in town the esteemed Rev. Jesse Jackson was also in town. Jesse was here to raise the profile of the local citizens group promoting the establishment of better medical isotope production. I heard that the two gentlemen actually walked past each other in the hallway of the local convention center. No acknowledgment of the other was given by either party.