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Showing posts from December, 2005

Advice from Josh Marshall

Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo was the first blog I regularly read, and it's still the very best. He has some end of the year advice for Democrats and liberals that I consider spot on.

First, he says, we have to attack and oppose. There is no point in being an opposition party if there is nothing to oppose, and I think all Dems and liberals find plenty to oppose in current policies and governance. He goes on to give some penetrating advice about writing, politics, and life in general.
Bad writing is usually imprecise writing -- and its badness usually stems from the bad writer not having taken the time to think through just what he or she means to say. The cobwebs and vagaries of their minds are revealed in bad prose.

Bad politics usually stems from people not having a clear idea of what they're trying to achieve, where they're trying to go. Once you know where you're trying to lead the country, strategy and tactics and optics and gutting the other…

Is Iran Next?

Drudge links to this Jerusalem Post story that says the US is preparing for a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.
The United States government reportedly began coordinating with NATO its plans for a possible military attack against Iran.
Many rather similar stories have talked about a possible Israeli strike against these facilities, but most doubt that Israel can carry off such a strike in convincing fashion. Compared to the strike Israel carried out against the Iraqi reactor way back when, attacking a dispersed and possibly largely underground Iranian nuclear program is much harder and much farther away. No one doubts that the US could carry out such attacks, but whether they would succeed is a question, and so is the resulting backlash in Shiite Iraq.

My guess is that at the moment, we are just seeing more saber rattling, intended to pressure Iran into abandoning uranium enrichment. If and when the strike comes, and I guess it will if Iran doesn't blink, I suspect th…

Selling America to the Highest Bidder

Via Josh Marshall.

R. Jeffrey Smith outlines how Tom Delay and the Republican Party sold out America to Russian oil interests, foreign sweatshop owners, and almost anybody else with cash in this Washington Post story. A key component of this Abramoff-Delay operation was a slush fund called the U.S. Family Network (take that, George Orwell).
The former president of the U.S. Family Network said Buckham told him that Russians contributed $1 million to the group in 1998 specifically to influence DeLay's vote on legislation the International Monetary Fund needed to finance a bailout of the collapsing Russian economy.
Now we know what Bush meant when he looked into Putin's eyes and saw "a good man."

There is a lot more in the story, all equally depressing. These swine have sold their country out at every turn. It makes me ashamed to call myself a pig.

Get Me a Bigger Alphabet!

Image
Tropical Storm Zeta is now spinning out in the Atlantic. It won't live long, but it surely is a freak. I wonder if there has ever been a January Tropical Storm before?

(learned about this from Brad Delong )

Predictions for 2005

Here are some predictions I made for 2005, but unfortunately neglected to publish in a timely manner.

(1) GW's Social Security plan will collapse in ignominious failure.

(2) The Iraq War, contrary to Bush's claims, will make little progress in 2005.

(3) The Endemic corruption of the Republican House will begin to stink up the courts as well as the country.

(4) The Senate will get tired of rubber stamping dubious Bush nominees.

(5) String Theory will continue to dominate the landscape of theoretical physics, crushing all rivals. Or have I mixed up the word order?

(6)The Pig will become a must read blog for the nation's movers and shakers.

More Predictions

William Safire has his multiple choice prediction for 2006 up here at the NYT. I found that my answer to most of his possibilities was "who cares," but his finale was:
14. As Bush approval rises, historians will begin to equate his era with that of: (a) Truman; (b) Eisenhower; (c) L.B.J.; (d) Reagan; (e) Clinton.
My pick was (f) Caligula, but Bill went with (a).

Jack and Tom Went up the Hill

Now that Jack has fallen down, and both crowns look dented, Jack's signature DC bar Signatures is looking for a new name. Josh Marshall and reader's have come up with some memorable suggestions: Licence Plates, Jack-in-the-Box, and The Pen, the last a play on the old Signatures name. I don't have any that can top these, but how about a brief eulogy:They've gone away,
Our Jack, our Duke,
And good old Ney,
Cause they must pay,
Cause they must pay.

Bad times for
The mighty Hammer,
Lord of K
Mighty no more
Once in slammer

Reading History

The Waco Tribune-Herald reports that:
The president is reading "When Trumpets Call: Theodore Roosevelt After the White House," but presidential spokesman Trent Duffy said Bush is not thinking about his post-Oval Office days.
It wasn't reported, but my informants claim that actually Karen Hughes is reading one paragraph chapter summaries to him at bedtime. He likes his books unfiltered by the media. Besides, it's a heavy book, and he doesn't want to risk another pretzel attack when he falls asleep.

If he really wants a glimpse of the post-presidential future he might want to check out Milosevic's forthcoming "My Life in The Hague."

History of the Great Conservative Revolution

Brad Delong keeps turning over rocks in the National Review Archive, and loathsome creatures keep wriggling out. Bill Buckley as a smarmy little racist shit:
Let me say at once, for the benefit of the wicked, fearful South, that Martin Luther King wil never rouse a rabble; in fact, I doubt very much if he could keep a rabble awake... past its bedtime... lecture... delivered with all the force and fervor of the five-year-old who nightly recites: "Our Father, Who art in New Haven, Harold be Thy name."...

Predictions for 2006

This is a pretty silly idea, since I have repeatedly been discredited as a prophet. Nonetheless, the courage born of folly will sustain us through the enterprise.

1) Five more Republican Congressmen will be indicted in 2006, together with two more members of the Bush inner circle.

2) A great black dog will haunt the Republican party through 2006, and his name won't be Snuffles or Sirius Black but something more like Abramoff, Jack.

3) The economy will sputter along, at least until Summer.

4) Television news will mutter on irrelevantly.

5) Lumo will not crack the Riemann Hypothesis (bearing in mind my track record, this prediction is actually a favorable omen, Lubos).

6) The American people will start getting upset about pensions, health care, and education.

7) 1) 3) and 6) will lead to the Republicans losing 35 House seats and 4 Senate seats in the mid-term elections, thus retaining a narrow majority in the Senate but decisively losing the House.

8) Usama bin Laden will die of natural ca…

The New Despotism

The founders of the American experiment were vary aware that the republic is a fragile form of government. The concensus of world intellectuals at the time was that it probably couldn't work, and would inevitably fail like so many republics past. The constitution and the rule of law were intended as guards against the usurpation of authority by a ruler and for the protection of minority interests.

The end of the twentieth century saw the collapse of the communist despotism in Europe and it vast weakening everywhere. Democracy asserted its appeal in South Africa, South American, and elsewhere. Unfortunately, the new century has not seen the good news continue. A couple of bad omens in the news: The New York Times reports here that Putin's Senior Economic Advisor has resigned,
warning that Russia's nascent political freedoms have been lost and the Kremlin's economic choices have been poor. He also said that he had no more ability to influence the government's c…

King Kong

Peter Jackson has made a nice little period comedy here. Unfortunately, he has appended two hours of retarded video game scenery and interspecies conflict, plus of course, the obligatory but still terminally lame interspecies love story. The chase/disaster through the streets of New York was OK though.

The whole movies was only a little over three hours, but it felt like so much more.

Decline of the West

A member of a software start-up explained to me about recruiting software talent in China. University X graduates 20,000 software engineers per year. You assemble 1000 of these in an auditorium, where they take a battery of tests. An IQ of 140 might be the minimum. The top 100 take more specialized tests, and twenty get interviewed. Maybe three get hired at $10,000/year.

At the same dinner, a software engineer for a major defense contractor explained how many of his colleagues had little real work to do, and most couldn't do it very well anyway, but stayed on the rolls because it was a cost plus contract.

I somehow doubt that the Chinese will be content to be high IQ cheap labor for long. Ditto their counterparts in India.

At some point, the government of China will decide to invest in all that highly-skilled (and soon, highly experienced) labor, and that immense flow of dollars financing the US spend and borrowing spree will vanish. I fear a pretty hard landing for the US e…

John Derbyshire is not an Idiot?

My guess is that the conclusion of the title is not a surprise to anyone who has actually read him, but it's always a bit of a shock for me to conclude that about someone who writes for the National Review and the Washington Times. My conclusion is based on scant evidence, I admit, since I've now read exactly three things by him: Part of a book (Prime Obsession, a popular book about the Riemann Hypothesis, and two articles). Overall, the interesting to banal coefficient was one I can only dream of, and I didn't find anything egregious in any of the three.

Naturally, this conclusion is subject to revision, and further research may discover some reason why the idiots at NRO would employ him.

UPDATE: I have now learned that there are a large number of people who believe that Derbyshire is, if not an idiot, at least a villian. The reason for this is his anti-homosexual views. Having now read a bit of his writings on the subject, I think his two main objections are personal…

Merry Christmas to All and To All a Good Night!

Not to mention Happy Holidays, whatever they may be.

The First Noel

Last minute Christmas shopping is a competitive sport.

Standing around, waiting as the guys in the blue vests unloaded the last pallet of X-Box 360's in town. In the country. In the Universe. I was psyched. I'd seen the mahem on TV on "Black Friday." I was well-positioned and thought I was ready. A sharp blow in the ribs sent me reeling. A thuggish looking fat guy steps into my spot, followed closely by a muscular looking man in one of those jackets with the big FBI on the back.

I knew this was a world where wimps lose out, a world where not having an X-Box competitive parent can scar a kid for life. As I struggled to regain my footing, part of that footing became fatso's shoe, and somehow the front of my knee made contact with the back of his. The big guy goes down like one of those helicopter dropped sandbags in New Orleans.

I jumped forward and as I bent to grab my X, FBI jacket inexplicably dives for the games. Bad timing. My knee, the same knee (…

The National Review: Heritage

Brad Delong has been mining the National Review archive. It's a rich trove, loaded with William F. Buckley's praise of McCarthyism, defense of racism, and denunciation of integration. Here's a recently unearthered gem:
October 26, 1957: General Franco is an authentic national hero... [with the] talents, the perseverance, and the sense of the righteousness of his cause, that were required to wrest Spain from the hands of the visionaries, ideologues, Marxists, and nihilists that were imposing... a regime so grotesque as to do violence to the Spanish soul, to deny, even, Spain's historical destinyAnd this great visionary has left his traces on the Spanish body as well as soul that endure today. If you look at members of the generation that grew up under Franco, they are about a foot shorter than modern (but still short) Spaniards.

Such is the sick and twisted vision of William F. Buckley, a "natural aristocrat" who pines for those days when you could recognize …

The Age of WalMart

CNBC did a nice long form story called "The Age of Walmart." It's a very even-handed but probably ultimately pro-WalMart story. No matter how you look at it, it's a pretty impressive phenomenon. Their logistical and management techniques are pehaps the most impressive ever developed.

There is still plenty there to offend anybody who loves liberty or human freedom. Part of WalMart's method is instilling a quazi-religious fervor and committment in the employees. Combine that with employing a large fraction of the working population of the country and their practice of closing an story that unionizes (almost certainly illegal), and you have an offensive degree of thought control.

"Must Restrain - Fist of Death"

Some years back, when I was a rather inept almost 50 in our over 30 soccer league, I was dribbling up the sideline while the opposing defender was trying to get the ball away. We continued in this fashion for twenty-five yards or so with him first charging shoulder to shoulder(legal), elbowing me in the ribs and chest(not), and finally grabbing my crotch. I manage to pass the ball to a teammate in the penalty area and turned back upfield with murder in my heart. The object of my rage was flat on his back, 10 yards upfield, where our last shoulder contact had left him, and I laughed, and the World was good. I was reminded of this by a story in today's sports page noting that English soccer star Vinnie Jones has this year been "immortalized in a statue depicting him reaching back and squeezing an opponents testicles." (Dave Kindred in The Sporting News).

The memory is also a useful sedative when I'm particularly annoyed at some Czech punk who has called me a "…

God Speaks to the Israelites - and Everybody Else

Tim Berners-Lee now has his own blog, as I learned from reading this Lubos post. Since Tim invented the World Wide Web, this really is a case of a Giant walking among men, much more significant to me than if some relative non-entity, like some random Cabinet officer or maybe Madonna, were to start one. Of course he had to turn off comments to still the clamor of believers.

WaPo vs. Froomkin: Delong Score Again

Brad Delong has another one of those great long posts taking a deep look at the Froomkin Affair, which, we recall, involved WaPo Ombudsman Howell and political editor Harris dissing WaPo blogger Froomkin. Brad's article, in the form of a Platonic dialogue, manages to peel back many layers of this onion, and shows that more than just fear of the White House was probably involved. Everybody should read the whole dialogue, but here's a tiny excerpt:
Thrasymachus: You are naive.

Televisticus: Well, yes, I agree that I am naive. But in what way do you think I'm naive?

Thrasymachus: You said that Post corporate headquarters will transfer jobs from the Washington print newsroom to the Arlington web newsroom, in the process destroying the Newspaper Guild and halving journalists' salaries.

Televisticus: I did.

Thrasymachus: Why should they transfer jobs? Why shouldn't Post corporate headquarters wake up to the fact that its three White House print beat reporters spend a large …

Down the Slippery Slope

Joshua Micah Marshall:
William Kristol and Gary Schmitt have a column in today's Washington Post that advances a simple premise: the president "uniquely swears an oath -- prescribed in the Constitution -- to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution."
If you follow those gentlemen, you will not be surprised that their column is up to their usual standard of unprincipled duplicity:
A U.S. president has just received word that American counterterrorist operatives have captured a senior al Qaeda operative in Pakistan. Among his possessions are a couple of cell phones -- phones that contain several American phone numbers. In the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, what's a president to do?

If the president were taking the advice offered by some politicians and pundits in recent days, he would order the attorney general to go to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The attorney general would ask that panel of federal judges for a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveil…

Teaching Darwin as Cultural Imperialism

I understand that the US is one of perhaps only two holdouts against a UN treaty supporting cultural diversity. This prompted me to think about what cultural imperialism is.

Is it cultural imperialism when we try to stop cultures from some practices which spreads disease (e.g., funerary cannibalism among the Fore), or try to stop female genital mutilation? How about making people let girls go to school? How about showing the rest of the world Spiderman and Harry Potter. Or even making children of fundamentalists study evolution in school?

My answer is yes to all of the above, but I still think they are all good ideas. The values of cultural diversity have been highly touted, especially among liberals. United States Defence Department employees, for example, are now required to have cultural diversity awareness objectives in their annual performance plans. Such ideas would have been considered bizarre a hundred years ago, and the Europeans who conquered much of the World over the…

Buying the Good News

I don't fully share the outrage about the fact that our military has been paying the Iraqi press to print good news stories. I'm more bothered by the fact that the Bushies were doing the same in the US. It does seem to have a little of the comic opera ineptitude about it that has characterized so much of the Bush war, though.

I was particularly impressed by the rationale somebody offered on NPR today. It's the custom in that part of the world. Saddam did it.Well, that's a precedent we wouldn't want to tamper with, huh?

Stupid, Ignorant, Evil, or Insane?

Brad Delong takes on Gregg Easterbrook, who wrote:
Don't take this personally, but if you are an American adult there is a one in two chance that Richard Dawkins, a renowned professor of science at Oxford, thinks you are "ignorant, stupid or insane," unless you are "wicked." These are the adjectives Dawkins chooses to describe the roughly 100 million Americans adults who, if public opinion polls are right, believe Homo sapiens was created directly by God, rather than gradually by evolution.

Actually Brad thinks that those four possibilities pretty much cover it:
...The important point, of course, is that contrary to Easterbrook's claim that there isn't much to choose from, that list actually covers the whole wide range of possibilities. Dawkins himself goes on to explain that the stupid, insane or wicked are the minority possibilities, but let's be honest and face the facts: if you are a creationist, you are almost certainly deeply ignorant of biolo…

Beat the Press

I really want to beat the Press after one of these idiotic press conferences. Or maybe just waterboard them a little. Some good questions did get asked, along with the moronic one like "so now what mistakes will you own up to?" What really really makes me mad is the obvious questions that go unasked. Two from me:

Mr President, you just described leaking classified information [about the NSA wiretaps] as shameful. Earlier you said you would fire anyone who had leaked the identity of the CIA agent. Given that Karl Rove has admitted leaking the CIA agent's name, why is he still your Deputy Chief of Staff?
or,

Mr. President, Bob Novak says you know the identity of the other person who leaked the CIA agent's name? Who was it? Was it you?

Loco Control

We have a tradition of local control of the public schools in this country, but at this point almost all that's left is tradition - control is long gone. There is some logic to State or national control of education, but the system we have now, where school boards are nominally in charge but subject to all sorts of State and National mandates and incentives, is crazy.

The huge bureaucracies almost all school districts have today is driven in large part by the need to conform to mandates and compete for "grants." Because these mandates are driven by all sorts of special interests they are often mutually contradictory.

No child left behind is the latest and in many ways the most disruptive of these mandates. I think the country needs to make some choices about who controls what in the schools, and when they make those choices, make them in such a way that lines of control and responsibility are clear cut and obvious to all.

Humpty Dumpty

Bush's speech on Iraq tonight was more forthright than his usual, but it did reiterate one of his big lies - the conflation of Iraq and terrorism. He also failed to squarely confront the central problem in today's Iraq - the simmering three-way civil war among Kurds, Sunnis and Shia. He quite likely is correct that walking away right now might cause us more problems than it solves. Having broken the Iraqi state, can we put it back together?

The existing constitution is an almost certain recipe for continuing civil war. After the defeat of Japan, McArthur pretty much personally wrote the Japanese constitution, and took extensive steps to make sure that Japan developed the institutions to support it. In their weakness, folly and arrogance, the Bushies didn't even try to do the same in Iraq.

Many, like Republican Lindsay Graham and Democrat Joseph Biden, say that the next six months are critical for achieving a workable constitution in Iraq. I'm not sure we still have…

Illegal Snooping

President Bush has admitted authorizing what appear to be clearly illegal wiretaps on US citizens. This David E Sanger New York Times Story has some of the details. Once again, the President claims a justification in the form of another John Woo special opinion - (remember him, the torture is not torture guy?) - holding again that the President is above the Law. Josh Marshall is all over this story. There is little doubt that the actions of the President and his subordinates constitute a felonious violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act but, naturally, little prospect that they will actually be prosecuted.

UPDATE: As commenter Levi pointed out, I should have said John Yoo, not John Woo.

Another Republicrook on the Ropes?

New York Republican gubernatorial candidate William Weld is perhaps the latest prominent Republican to be caught up in an ethics problem. New York Times reporters Sam Dillon and Patrick D. Healy lay out the story in this multipart article. It seems that Weld was CEO of the for profit Decker College, which collapsed amidst accusations of fraud victimizing the students, employees, and the Federal Student Loan program. Among other things, the school is accused of recruiting unqualified students with high pressure tactics, helping them cheat on exams, falsifying attendance records, and paying off former employees not to report these illegalities. At this point Weld has not been accused of personal criminal activity, but running a criminal enterprise isn't much of a recommendation for a governorship even if he was merely a dupe.

White Boys ...

According to Nicolas Wade in this NYT story, scientists at Penn State report that they have found the long sought "white boy" gene responsible for the light skin color of Europeans and the darker skin color of Africans.
The gene comes in two versions, one of which is found in 99 percent of Europeans and the other in 93 to 100 percent of Africans, the researchers report in today's issue of Science.

The gene is unusual because with most human genes, different versions are generally shared, though one version may be more common in one race than another.
We were all presumeably black from the time we lost our hair 1.5 million years ago or so until about 40,000 years ago when Europeans moved into the far less sunny climes of the North.
But when the modern humans who left Africa began to live in northern latitudes, they needed more sunlight to penetrate the skin, to permit the chemical reaction that produces vitamin D.
Oddly enough, the gene, and its varieties were not initial…

Sustainability

Lubos was apparently thrilled to find this rather shallow analysis of the concept of 'sustainability' by Roy Spencer on the Exxon funded propaganda site TCS Daily. Spencer's argument:
Even though it is fashionable for now, ‘sustainability’ is not a very useful concept. In the final analysis, only change is sustainable.Much of his essay is devoted to a couple of lame jokes: the idea that New York had a critical environmental crisis in the form of too much horseshit, only to be saved by the internal combustion engine, and some ecological organization's budget having been determined to be "unsustainable."

Some hundreds of millions of years in the future, the accumulation of helium at the Sun's core will cause it to expand and fry the Earth, so in the long run, life on our planet cannot be sustained. At some point, your automobile engine, no matter how carefully maintained, will fail. Neither of these facts is justification for ignoring shorter term sustain…

Sustainability Parable

1500 years ago Polynesian explorers reached and settled the most isolated piece of habitable land in the world - an island some of their descendants called Rapa Nui. Only sixty-four square miles, but extremely fertile, it was well forested, and the inhabitants were able to live quite well by fishing and farming, making use of the trees to make the excellent outrigger canoes with which their people had explored so much of the world. Their population grew to about 15,000 and they built a vigorous civilization, featuring elaborate stone statues, which they erected at great cost in labor and wood. Their religious enterprises began depleting the forests, but the high priest of the cult, who was called Exxon, assured the population that the only way to propitiate the gods was to continue to cut down trees in order to erect more stone statues, and that stopping would bring economic ruin. When the last tree was cut down, no more canoes could be built, and without the fish which had been t…

Tammy Bruce is Not a Fan

Of current movies, including Brokeback Mountain, which she describes thusly:
A love story between two gay sheepherders (erroneously labeled 'cowboys' by the media, I suppose because they wear hats).

Gay sheepherders? The hell you say! I mean, like, gay cowboys has some novelty value, but gay shepherds is sort of like gay hairdressers.

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

(Via Shakespeare's Sister, subbing for Kevin Drum at Political Animal.)

Repairing Environmental Damage

Global warming naysayers sometimes take the tack that even if were are screwing up the planet, trying to limit the damage would be too costly. There is one encouraging sign out now though. One of the first examples of global environmental destruction that nations cooperated to deal with was ozone destruction.

This year, we are seeing the first signs of recovery . It's an interesting historical fact that many of the same cast of characters who now deny global warming played the same role with ozone loss, denying and denying until the scientific evidence became overwhelming. Of course the stupidocracy, like Rush the junkie, are still deluded.

The case for anthropogenic climate warming, and its bad consequences, is not yet at that same level of certainty. We should remember, though, that it will take decades more for the ozone to fully recover, but with global warming we might be talking centuries.

Genesis 6:14 A

The Lord looked at that part of the Earth bounded by the Beltway, and was not well pleased.

He spoke to Noah Johnson, a hot dog vendor on Dupont Circle, and said.

I intend to flood this place, and so separate the righteous from the unrighteous.

So get some plywood and build and ark.

Make it 4 cubits long, two cubits wide, and 1 cubit high - that should be plenty for the righteous.

Take some canned goods, a flashlight, and a good bailing can.

And here's a FEMA credit card - try not to flash it on Meet the Press.

"Let the rains begin."

Neither a Borrower nor a Lender be?

My family and I borrowed about $1100 bucks last month. It seems like a lot, but we've been borrowing almost as much every month for a long time now, so it should be OK, right?

We aren't exactly borrowing it personally, our friendly Congressmen are doing it for us. You know, those guys who like to tell us "it's your money" as they chuckle and give another couple hundred million to Paul Allen so that he can buy another 600 foot boat. Who the f&*# do they think is going to have to pay it back?

The New York Times reports:
The United States trade deficit reached a new high for the second consecutive month, the Commerce Department reported today, widening to a record $68.9 billion in October as oil imports far outpaced exports of capital goods like airplanes.
That extrapolates to about $826 billion per year, or roughly $2700 per person ($10,800 for a family of four), but, since it has been setting a new record every month, constant extrapolation is probably an under…

John Harris, Twisting Slowly, Slowly, in the Wind

Background:

Dan Froomkin writes an online political blog for washingtonpost.com called White House Briefing. Deborah Howell, whose job title is Ombudman, but who appears to be more of a right-minder for the Republican Party wrote this column dissing Dan as a biased liberal. This provoked a storm of protest from readers, overwhelmingly Froomkin fans. This in turn led Washington Post Political Editor John Harris to write this rejoinder, provoking yet more reader outrage.


Jay Rosen of Press Think got this interview with John Harris, and it wasn't pretty. Who exactly, was confused or outraged about Froomkin's blog?
Q: What sort of complaints or reactions have the political writers received (and from whom) that would lead them to think that White House Briefing is harming their credibility?

John Harris: I don’t keep a running log, but I regularly run across people who think Dan is one of our White House reporters. One of them was a very news-saavy source of mine who actually ru…

Threnody for Strings

Peter Woit has this post up on David Gross's talk at Solvay. (Lubos weighed in earlier, but he mostly just plays defense). The most popular interpretation seems to be that String Theory has hit a bit of an impasse. This has happened before, and each time some new breakthrough has occurred to inspire the faithful. I found many of the comments on Peter's blog interesting, including some I could understand.

The most inexplicable thing in theoretical physics for me today is the fanatical and religious way so many in String Theory defend their idea as the "one true way." This is so foreign to the way physics was done in the first 70 years of the twentieth century that it seems bizarre to me. Einstein, Bohr and others seemingly fought their battles back them with a dignity and good humor that makes a lot of the ST crowd look like back alley thugs.

WaPo Tries to Kiss Some WH Butt

John Harris, WaPo's chief White House flunky (aka, the National Politics Editor), is afraid that Karl Rove may think that WaPo Kowtow is not quite low enough. He explains about Dan Froomkin and:
the concerns about "White House Briefing" in the Post newsroom.I think he means Corporate cowardice headquarters.

The first issue is whether many readers believe Dan's column is written by one of the Washington Post's three White House reporters. . .

Given that there is such confusion, the question is whether this is a problem. For me it is a problem. I perceive a good bit of his commentary on the news as coming through a liberal prism--or at least not trying very hard to avoid such perceptions. Dan, as I understand his position, says that his commentary is not ideologically based, but he acknowledges it is written with a certain irreverence and adversarial purpose. Dan does not address the main question in his comments. He should. If he were a White House reporter for a…

Gerhard Globocrook

This year's tense battle for the World Scumbag Championship has been broken wide open by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's deal with Russian energy company Gazprom. Just weeks ago, the Tom Delay-Jack Abramoff axis appeared to have the trophy wrapped up, but Schroeder's big move has turned the struggle upside down.

Even the scandal hardened Washington Post had a harsh word ("Sellout") for a Chancellor who:
leaves his job and goes to work for a company controlled by the Russian government that is helping to build a Baltic Sea gas pipeline that he championed while in office. To make the decision even more unpalatable, it turns out that the chief executive of the pipeline consortium is none other than a former East German secret police officer who was friendly with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, back when Mr. Putin was a KGB agent in East Germany. If nothing else, Mr. Schroeder deserves opprobrium for his bad taste.

But the announcement should also r…

Darwin vs. God

I've been reading over the Newsweek readers' responses to their article on Darwin. There are the usual people who find it hard to believe Darwin because the find it hard to believe Darwin, and also a bunch who find no incosistency between religion and Darwin.

The real problem that Darwin in particular and biology in general present for religion is not that they make it hard to believe in God, it's that they make it hard to believe in a God who cares. Darwin himself started as a believer, and even planned a carreer in the clergy. It was the cruelty of nature and of evolution that turned him against God. What kind of benevolent God would create an ichneumon wasp and the way it makes its living? Once you ask that question, it's easy to wonder the same about malaria, polio, and AIDS.

Bubble Boy Gets Out

I don't know any details, but Bush actually answered some questions after his speech today. About time. He might find it makes him a lot more popular. Expecially if he gives straightforward answers and not the usual Rovian mumbo-jumbo.

Emerging Economic Superpower

Harvard economist LM has observed the emergence of a new economic superpower. Some might think that one cold day in Cambridge does not exactly disprove global warming, or that one year's good economic growth might convince only the most credulous, but, stamped with the authority of Harvard, how can we doubt?

The CIA factbook has published some economic data for Iraq, which shows that the GDP grew by 52.3 percent in 2004. LM notes this and deduces:
The country has not only a terrific growth potential but also a big potential to become an extremely civilized territory, just like it was thousands of years ago when Europe was their barbarian borderland.
And any doubters are "immoral bastards."

The CIA factbook is a bit more cautious in its assessment.
The high percentage gain estimated for GDP in 2004 is the result of starting from a low base.And notes that:
The military victory of the US-led coalition in March-April 2003 resulted in the shutdown of much of the central economic a…

Are Corporations Evil?

To me, the title is sort of a silly question, something like asking "Are volcanoes evil?" Of course there is the important difference that corporations are a human creation, unlike volcanoes. There is also the possibility of regulating corporations, unlike volcanoes (at least so far).

In a couple of previous posts I have mentioned the influence of the energy industry on the debate over anthropogenic global warming. Naturally I don't expect, say, Lubos, to understand any subtle distinctions, but I was a bit disappointed that Wolfgang seemed believe that meant I equated Exxon with evil. OK, maybe I might have referred to some of our corporations with endearing terms like "The Evil Empire," but that's just a little joke. Corporations are supposed to make money for their stockholders, and it seems likely to me that most of Exxon's efforts were directed towards that end, so in that sense proper.

I'm not so happy about the new ways corporations have fo…

Energizing the Opposition

While checking up on Dr. Spencer (previous post) I found this web site. Essentially every anti-global warming organization you ever heard of is listed on Exxon's payroll. Ditto most of the usual right wing suspects: The American Enterprise Institute, The Cato Institute, The Federalist Society, The Heritage Society, The Hoover Institution, The Hudson Institute, Junkscience.com, The Reason Foundation, and of course Tech Central Station. I didn't list the climate related ones, but check them out - and think twice before you trust anything from anybody on the payroll of the world's largest source of pollution.

Climatic Moment

Roy Spencer, a real scientist with some climate science chops, is a global warming skeptic. Oops, let me try that again: An anthropogenic global warming skeptic. I had to put in the qualifier because Roy, like Prof M (to whom I owe the link to Roy's article) is exercised by those who are ignorant enough or otherwise sufficiently imprecise as to ignore the vast spectrum of naturally occurring climate change. It's a legitimate point, unless it's used to try to obfuscate the increasing evidence for human induced climate change.

So what's bothering Dr. Spencer? It seems that he was one of the few scientists at the UN's 11th Conference of Parties meeting in Montreal, and he found that most of the delegates weren't interested in how certain or uncertain climate predictions were.
All these people know - or need to know - is that the "glaciers are melting," it's getting "hotter every year", and "climate change is killing people now&q…

Hating Hillary

Susan Estrich, a liberal obnoxious and funny looking enough to rate frequent Fox News gigs, has written The Case for Hillary Clinton. I'm not likely to read it, but hearing about it prompted me to think about why I really hate the thought of her as a Democratic presidential candidate.

It's actually not personal - or at least mainly not personal. Though her voice does grate on my nerves.

a) She is Bill Clinton's wife. I like Bill Clinton. He is very charming and intelligent. He was even a good President until his philandering and perjury got him caught up in fighting stupid political charges. Those same misdeeds destroyed the Democratic party and cost them the next two elections. We would have been far better off if he had been convicted and removed from office. Too bad the Republicans were too stupid to charge him with his real crime.

But even if he had been a perfect, saintly, and universally beloved President, I would still find his Presidency disqualifying for Hi…

Three for the Show?

Unless events unfold a lot differently than I expect (and they usually do), the Republican Candidate in 2008 will likely face some uninviting odds - eight years of Bush rule having left the country more or less bankrupt, with the jails full of Republican officials, and the Iraq disaster either not yet gone or at least not forgotten. Not to worry - the Democrats are unlikely to field a reasonable candidate. At this point, the favorites are the unbearable Hillary Clinton, soon likely to be hated as much by the liberals as by the right, proven loser John Kerry, and the lighter-than-air John Edwards. Meanwhile, Congressional Democrats have sat on their hands while Republicans have conducted the most corrupt Congress in recent memory. Despite ample evidence of misbehavior and even indictments, no ethics complaints have been filed in Congress.

All a third party needs at this point is a credible candidate with a reasonable platform. They could start with anti-corruption, fiscal responsib…

Shrill Nobel Playwright

Harold Pinter doesn't like us:
"The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them," Mr. Pinter said. "You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis."
...

Mr. Pinter attacked American foreign policy since World War II, saying that while the crimes of the Soviet Union had been well documented, those of the United States had not. "I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road," he said. "Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be, but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self-love."

He returned to the theme of language as an obscurer of reality, saying that American leaders use it to anesthet…

Remembering the SSC

No blogger intimidates me quite as much as Brad Delong. The guy is amazingly prolific and equally amazing in his breadth of knowledge. This short note inspired by Lisa Randall's Warped Passages asks us to:
Just think of what we would know if since 1970s we had diverted NASA's manned space flight budget into building bigger and bigger atom smashers...

The shuttle and space station were indeed tragic wastes. I'm a fan of manned space flight myself, but I think we have to say that NASA in the 70's wanted to pursue manned space flight in the worst possible way - and they did. Like George W and the invasion of Iraq.

We can't really know if completing the rather embarassingly named Superconducting Supercollider would have advanced our knowledge of physics, but if it hadn't, it would have put the whole subject to sleep for a century or so.

Of course it's pretty obvious now that the $5 billion saved by killing off the SSC is drarfed by all sorts of other governme…

Educating America

I had some interesting conversations with current and former teachers and school administrators recently. There is a tremendous unhappiness with the No Child Left Behind education program passed by the Congress and the President. One common complaint is that the emphasis on standard tests has been a big boon for the testing companies, but not for the students. Typical elementary school children now spend ten percent or so of their total instructional time sitting for standardized tests.

The real source of bitterness, though, is the sense that the public schools are being held to an impossible standard. In particular, for a school to be successful, it has to succeed with every category of its students (race, sex, and some other distinctions). One example brought to my attention - in order to succeed, schools need to have 95% of the students in each category show up for the exam. In some categories, the absence of one or two students on test days could fail the school. This bitter…

Punchline

This paper (gr-qc/0512018) up on the ArXiv today has an abstract with a great punchline:
Starting from a perfect cosmolgical fluid, one class of frequency metrics that satisfies both Einstein's General Relativitic equation and the perfect fluid condition is: g_uv = e^iwt N_uv. Such a metric indicates spacetime behaves locally like a simple harmonic oscillator. During spacetime compressions and rarefactions particles are exuded with a mass equal to the compressive work that produced them. They comprise the cosmic dark matter that makes up this perfect fluid. By treating spacetime as a classical thermodynamic problem, the mass of these particles is determined to be in the range of an axion particle sought by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. When axion particles collide they give off a photon having a microwave frequency inversely equal to that of the frequency of the spacetime compression that produced them. These microwave photons make up the 2.7K cosmic background radiat…

The Pro-Torture Lobby

Oddly enough, our Stalinist friend, L. Motl, has a pro-torture post up right now.

His justification, like those of torture justifiers always and everywhere, is that the victims (in this case terrorists) of the torture are so bad and undeserving of human treatment, that they deserve this treatment, and, moreover torture is needed to combat them. Others against whom this rationale has been used include "reactionaries" and "counter-revolutionaries" in Communist nations, enemies of the ruler, practically everywhere, Jews, and heretics like scientists.

Those who founded this country incorporated some provisions against torture into the constitution. They knew that torture victims are all guilty, because the tortured will confess to anything. That is how Bush got his phony evidence of a collaboration between al Quaeda and Iraq - they tortured an al Quaeda operative until he figured out what it was they wanted him to confess to. For the torturer, this nicety is a small …

Torture

George "mpos" Stephanopolis interviewed National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley on ABC's this week. Skipping over the important details (Hadley's admission that Bush is planning to cut and run from Iraq), George also very gently probed Hadley about whether Bush would accept the McCain anti-torture amendment. Hadley bobbed and weaved, and went on his way, but Stephanopolis came back to the subject in the "round table" discussion.

Gee, opined the mpos, if they won't compromise on this that must mean the military really thinks they need it. What a crock of shit! The military neither needs nor wants it. The guy who wants it is the smirking sadist who went from blowing up frogs as a kid to branding pledges with a red hot coat hanger as a young man. The guy who wants it is the one who could never cover his glee at putting to death prison inmates and was amused by the prospect that some of them had had very feeble legal defenses. The guy who wants it is …

Bush on the Couch

I've already had some fun here at the expense of Justin Frank's book, title as above, but having read more of it, I think that beneath all the Freudian mumbo-jumbo, there is some truth. However silly their theories may be, shrinks have had a lot of experience with psychopathologies, and I'm not sure Frank is so wrong about Bush.

The ADHD President As governor, while holding a press conference on a fatal heat wave and forest fire, after he called the forestry official up to speak:
Bush looked toward the journalists, stuck out his tongue, and made a funny face by puffing out his cheeks like a blowfish.

Bush the Alky, twenty years of heavy drinking takes a toll:
All one has to do to observe Bush's innattention is watch him listening to a speech given by someone else, watch his behavior on the campaign trail, or consider the obviously desperate attempts he makes to retain focus in every speech he gives.
The Religious Fanatic:
God told me to strike at al Quaida and I struck th…

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Black Holes I.

Black holes again. Some of you may recall that I am something of a fan of the allegedly crackpot theories that black holes don't really form because they evaporate first.

There are a few recent relevant papers up on the ArXiv.

My first candidate is Sean A. Hayward's Formation and evaporation of regular black holes (gr-qc/0506126). A regular black hole, as I learned, is a black hole without a singularity at the center. From the abstract:
Regular (non-singular) space-times are given which describe the formation of a black hole from an initial vacuum region, its quiescence as a static region, and its subsequent evaporation to a vacuum region. The static region is Bardeen-like, supported by finite density and pressures, vanishing rapidly at large radius and behaving as a cosmological constant at small radius. The dynamic regions are Vaidya-like, with ingoing radiation of positive energy flux during collapse and negative energy flux during evaporation, the latter balanced by outgoi…

WTF?

After Bush's Annapolis speech, Senate Democrats apparently had John Kerry (?!) give a response. John Stewart excerpted a few of the more preposterous elements from Kerry's speech and later told Nancy Pelosi "He's not good at that."

What in the hell are Democrats thinking? All of Kerry's verbal and intellectual sins, or at least a surfeit of the mortal ones, were on display: Pomposity, wandering syntax, incoherence, the congenital inability to get to the point, all culminating in and illustrating the fact that the man seemingly has nothing to say. John Murtha would have been a far better choice.

Underneath the ugly surface, the real cause of Democratic confusion is all too apparent: abject cowardice. Anybody thinking of running for President is petrified of saying anything that might be used against him or her=Hillary. Now that Bush's little foreign adventure seems to be turning out badly, everybody is afraid of the old "stab in the back"…