Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Just in Case You Forgot, It Might Have Been a Big Chill Instead

I was helping my daughter write a report on global warming, and she asked me when people first started noticing the effects.

I told her the story the Year Without a Summer, with two major snowstorms in June in New England and frosts in July. The year after Mount Tambora blew should have precipitated a new Ice Age.

But it didn't.

The global warming skeptics (i.e., oil company employees one way or another) all like to insist this proves warming and cooling are "natural" cycles totally unrelated to human effects.

I like to stand everyone else's arguments on their heads and say, if it wasn't for global warming, there would be a mile of ice above Manhattan. And Chicago. And Detroit. And we might all be back in our caves.

The reconstructions used, in order from oldest to most recent publication are:

1. (dark blue 1000-1991): P.D. Jones, K.R. Briffa, T.P. Barnett, and S.F.B. Tett (1998). "High-resolution Palaeoclimatic Records for the last Millennium: Interpretation, Integration and Comparison with General Circulation Model Control-run Temperatures". The Holocene 8: 455-471. DOI:10.1191/095968398667194956
2. (blue 1000-1980): M.E. Mann, R.S. Bradley, and M.K. Hughes (1999). "Northern Hemisphere Temperatures During the Past Millennium: Inferences, Uncertainties, and Limitations". Geophysical Research Letters 26 (6): 759-762. DOI:10.1029/1999GL900070 (pre-print)
3. (light blue 1000-1965): Crowley and Lowery (2000). "Northern Hemisphere Temperature Reconstruction". Ambio 29: 51-54. Modified as published in Crowley (2000). "Causes of Climate Change Over the Past 1000 Years". Science 289: 270-277. DOI:10.1126/science.289.5477.270 (data available from NCDC : [2])
4. (lightest blue 1402-1960): K.R. Briffa, T.J. Osborn, F.H. Schweingruber, I.C. Harris, P.D. Jones, S.G. Shiyatov, S.G. and E.A. Vaganov (2001). "Low-frequency temperature variations from a northern tree-ring density network". J. Geophys. Res. 106: 2929-2941. DOI:10.1029/2000JD900617
5. (light green 831-1992): J. Esper, E.R. Cook, and F.H. Schweingruber (2002). "Low-Frequency Signals in Long Tree-Ring Chronologies for Reconstructing Past Temperature Variability". Science 295 (5563): 2250-2253. DOI:10.1126/science.1066208
6. (yellow 200-1980): M.E. Mann and P.D. Jones (2003). "Global Surface Temperatures over the Past Two Millennia". Geophysical Research Letters 30 (15): 1820. DOI:10.1029/2003GL017814.
7. (orange 200-1995): P.D. Jones and M.E. Mann (2004). "Climate Over Past Millennia". Reviews of Geophysics 42: RG2002. DOI:10.1029/2003RG000143
8. (red-orange 1500-1980): S. Huang (2004). "Merging Information from Different Resources for New Insights into Climate Change in the Past and Future". Geophys. Res Lett. 31: L13205. DOI:10.1029/2004GL019781
9. (red 1-1979): A. Moberg, D.M. Sonechkin, K. Holmgren, N.M. Datsenko and W. Karlén (2005). "Highly variable Northern Hemisphere temperatures reconstructed from low- and high-resolution proxy data". Nature 443: 613-617. DOI:10.1038/nature03265
10. (dark red 1600-1990): J.H. Oerlemans (2005). "Extracting a Climate Signal from 169 Glacier Records". Science 308: 675-677. DOI:10.1126/science.1107046
11. (black 1856-2004): Instrumental data was jointly compiled by the Climatic Research Unit and the UK Meteorological Office Hadley Centre. Global Annual Average data set TaveGL2v [3] was used.

Documentation for the most recent update of the CRU/Hadley instrumental data set appears in: P.D. Jones and A. Moberg (2003). "Hemispheric and large-scale surface air temperature variations: An extensive revision and an update to 2001". Journal of Climate 16: 206-223. DOI:10.1175/1520-0442(2003)016<0206:HALSSA>2.0.CO;2

The flip side of my argument still holds: if we don't learn to control our excesses, the Gulf will extend north to the Missouri, Manhattan will be under three hundred feet of water, and who knows? Velociraptors or their reasonable facsimilies may end up stalking the swamps of Montana again .

Titan, Beotches

Seas of ethane:

What is this vast dark region on Titan? Quite possible a sea of liquid hydrocarbons. The region was imaged earlier this month when the robotic Cassini spacecraft swooped past Saturn's cloudy moon and illuminated part of it with radar. The dark region in the above image reflected little radar, an effect expected were the dark surface relatively flat, as expected for a liquid. Other indications that the vast dark area is liquid include the coastline-like topology of the brighter regions, which appear to include islands, inlets, and tributary channels. The uninterrupted smoothness of much of the dark sea may indicate that the sea runs deep, with speculation holding a depth estimate of tens of meters. A hydrocarbon sea on Titan holds particular interest for exobiologists as it might be a place where life could develop. In 2005 the Huygens probe landed on Titan and returned the first surface images. Cassini will continue to explore Titan, as 13 more flybys are planned.

Life at -290ºF in a reducing atmosphere would be life as we don't know it. Assuming, of course, we know life in the first place.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Modern Conservatism: State Socialism in Defense of Mad Cow

Kagro X over at the Great Organge Satan spots one of those things noboby believes when you tell them:

"The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease...

"A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows...

"Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.

"The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry."

Kagro X points to Rick Perlstein's comment on this:

...When E. coli conservatives say self-regulation is preferable to government, they're even lying about that. Second, observe the contempt for small business. When a small company want to - voluntarily! - hold its product to a higher standard, the government blocks it, in part because bigger companies have to be protected from the competition, in part because a theoretical threat to the bottom line (false positives) trumps protection against a deadly disease.

There's your conservatism, America: not extremism in defense of liberty. State socialism in defense of Mad Cow.

In the comments chapel hill guy points to this deconstruction of Bu$hie's oddball Memorial Day statement wishing the Chinese would buy more American Beef:

...Bush's push to the Chinese to accept US beef was the latest stab at so-called "cheeseburger diplomacy" to try to get major trading partners like China, Japan and South Korea to remove curbs on US beef imports.

The barriers were erected over fears that US beef is tainted with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the brain-wasting condition commonly known as mad-cow disease...

Now, I hate to alarm 'em over at the Great Orange Satan, because you know they're ever so closer to the center of things, but this story broke back in 2004.

You don't suppose they got the idea idiocy is endemic here for a reason , do you?

(Really) Bad Ideas

The New York Pravda occasionally hits it right- especially about issues they haven't been bought out on yet. An editorial today:

The Coal Trap

Published: May 30, 2007

There is a rule for judging solutions to the twin problems of energy dependence and global warming: A policy designed to solve one problem should not make the other worse. But that is a likely outcome of the many “energy independence” bills circulating in Congress that aim to build a whole new generation of coal-to-liquid plants to convert coal into automotive fuel.

These bills have already acquired an enthusiastic constituency and will be offered as amendments to what is now a relatively simple and sound energy bill designed to increase the fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks, encourage the production of biofuels and provide research and development money for the capture and storage of carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

There are, of course, ways to make this bill better. Senator Jeff Bingaman will offer a useful amendment to require utilities to generate a percentage of their electricity from renewable sources like wind. But there are also ways to make the bill a lot worse. One of them is to require the expenditure of billions of dollars in loans, tax incentives and price guarantees to lock in a technology that could end up doing more harm than good.

Coal is far and away America’s most abundant fuel. It provides more than half the country’s electricity. And there is no doubt that it could substitute for foreign oil, although how much and at what price is not clear. In addition, the technology to convert coal into liquid fuels is well established. But it is also true that between the production process and burning it in cars, coal-to-liquid fuel produces more than twice the greenhouse gas emissions as gasoline and nearly twice the emissions of ordinary diesel. These are terrible ratios...

Researchers at M.I.T. estimate that it will cost $70 billion to build enough coal-to-liquid plants to replace 10 percent of American gasoline consumption. A similar investment in biofuels like cellulosic or sugar-based ethanol — which could yield substantial reductions in greenhouse gases — would seem a lot smarter.

Given the dimensions of our energy problems, new ideas must be explored. But it makes little sense to shackle the country now to a coal-based technology of such uncertain promise.

But, guaranteed to make billions for the Congress and its owners, the energy companies.

[thanks to Nico at Think Progress for the graphic]

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Just Do It

Sheehan may have burned out.

But I like what the Freewayblogger says:

Cindy Sheehan was a mother who lost her son and wanted to know why. Her initial trip to Crawford inspired a flashmob of thousands to join her in the ditches outside Bush's ranch and gave, as they say, a "face" to the anti-war movement. Unlike the other faces we see on our TVs, hers wasn't all pretty and polished like the professional pundits - the ones that are paid to tell us what to think. Her features showed quite plainly the sadness of her lot. Nevertheless, Cindy looked better on camera than the real faces of the antiwar movement - the ones that had been shot away or melted off inside a burning Humvee.

To be perfectly honest with you, I've felt like writing a letter like Cindy's damn near every day...

...When I started doing this, I didn't think it'd take more than a couple hundred signs, at most, for people to "get it": the simple, obvious and irrefutable fact that when you put a sign on a freeway, a HELL of a lot of people read it. With 200,000 people seeing the same sign, day after day for weeks, it seemed reasonable that at least one of them would say to themselves, "Hey! I could do that!" and that the ball would just start rolling from there. Didn't Happen. Which is kind of amazing when you think about it, and frankly still confounds me.

Before I became the Freewayblogger I used to bring clothing to villages in the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico. I did this because it seemed that the most useful thing I could do with the resources I had was to collect warm clothes, put them in my truck, and then go find the coldest, poorest people I could. Like freewayblogging, it was a simple idea, easily executed, that practically anyone could do, provided they were willing to break a few small rules in defense of a greater one. (Bringing used clothing into Mexico is illegal, even for charity, if you don't have a bunch of impossible-to-get permits. I'd usually get through customs by explaining who the clothes were for and hoping they'd let me through. If that didn't work, leaving a couple of twenties on the drivers seat usually did the trick. On the rare occasions they sent me back, I just went to a different crossing, or waited a bit and tried again at the same one. I always got through.) It took about three years and a hundred thousand miles of driving, but I managed to clothe damn near everybody living in the northwest Sierra Madres. And believe me, compared to that sticking signs up on freeways is a piece of cake.

The reason I’m bringing this up is to emphasize the power that one person can have when they decide on a plan of action and then just Do It. Don’t get together with friends, don’t form a group and for God’s sakes, don’t hold another meeting. Figure out the most useful thing you can do with the resources you have and then Just Do It...

[thanks Avedon]

$elections are $elections. Big Brother is watching, and any conspiracy you join is just small potatoes compared to what's going on Uptown. It would only get you caught.

I think Harry Tuttle had the right idea. Fix the broken ducts, whereever you find them. It's the only way to fly.

Getting Rid of the Evidence

The Air Force wants to use some of the richest dinosaur fossil hunting grounds in North America as a bombing range.

But according to the departed Brother Falwell and Brother Robertson, those fossils were put there by Satan to decieve us anyway, right? When you don't know your devil, know the smell of brimstone, and Brother Falwell knows his brimstone.

And this has nothing to do with the evangelical takeover of the United States Air Force- and the entire Department of Defense. 'Cause the Bible tells us so.

[thanks, MJS]

Captain Obvious

Just read what Driftglas says.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Bu$h Bin-Lyin'

Dr. Ron Kramer of Western Michigan University:

President Bush, U.S. Sen. John McCain and other supporters of the war on Iraq continue to deceive the American people by mischaracterizing the situation there. War supporters argue that the war in Iraq is the central front in a war against ``terrorism'' and that if we don't fight the terrorists there we will have to fight them here later. This is a ludicrous assertion.

This falsehood goes back to the lies advanced by the Bush administration in the propaganda campaign to market the war that Iraq was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks and had operational ties to al-Qaida. There was no evidence of such ties or involvement.

We must understand the violence in Iraq is not caused by ``terrorists'' but by the American military occupation. Our presence there does not prevent violence -- it causes it. The ``enemy'' we are fighting in Iraq is the Iraqi people who are resisting the belligerent occupation of their country, as many of us would do. The ``insurgents'' are various Sunni and some Shiite militias who are resisting the American occupation and the puppet government that the United States is attempting to impose.

There are a small number of foreign jihadists, including some members of al-Qaida, who have come into Iraq since the U.S. invasion. But they are a very small presence, only 1,000 to 2,000 strong according to the Iraq Study Group. A February report of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency noted that ``attacks by terrorist groups account for only a fraction of insurgent violence.''

According to most experts on the Middle East, this small group of foreign terrorists has no ability to come to the U.S., no ability to take over the Iraqi government and will be driven from Iraq as soon as the U.S. leaves. As University of Michigan Middle Eastern history professor Juan Cole points out, ``Turkey, Jordan and Iran are not going to put up with an al-Qaida stronghold on their borders; nor would Shiite and Kurdish Iraqis.''

Rather than fighting terrorism, the invasion of Iraq has caused more terrorism. In a recent report, the Oxford Research Group noted that ``treating Iraq as part of the war on terror only spawned new terror in the region and created a combat training zone for jihadists.'' Thus, continuing this war makes us less safe from future terrorism, not more.

Again, it is critical to understand that the central source of the violence in Iraq is the illegal United States invasion and occupation. The invasion and occupation has caused the deaths of an estimated 650,000 Iraqis according to the best scientific study published in The Lancet. It has resulted in more than 3,000 American deaths.

Sunni insurgents resisting the brutal actions of the occupation and its administration attack U.S. forces and Shiite collaborators. Shiite militias take revenge on Sunnis. Many of these Shiite militias are a significant part of the Iraqi army and police force. In fact, as Tom Hayden points out, the new de facto U.S. policy in Iraq is ``to support, fund, arm and train a sectarian Shi'a-Kurdish state, one engaged in ethnic cleansing, mass detention and murder of Sunni Arabs.'' U.S. support of this Shi'a-Kurdish state allows the current Iraqi government to avoid compromise.

The violence will continue until the American occupation ends. As Cole argues, ``The key to preventing an intensified civil war is U.S. withdrawal from the equation so as to force the parties to an accommodation. Therefore, the United States should announce its intention to withdraw its military forces from Iraq, which will bring Sunnis to the negotiating table and put pressure on Kurds and Shiites to seek a compromise with them.''

Furthermore, as it withdraws its military forces, the U.S. should work cooperatively with the United Nations to convene a regional conference, that must include Iran, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, for the purpose of developing a security, stabilization and reconstruction plan for Iraq along the lines suggested by George McGovern and William Polk in their book, ``Out of Iraq.''

Some commentators think nothing can be done to salvage Iraq at this point. That may be true, but ending the occupation offers the best chance to stop the violence and give Iraqis a chance to determine their own fate.

Never Forget

Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell's boy, via Larry Johnson, Company man, via Jonathan Schwarz:

...Our political process, not just the Federal bureaucracy, but our political process is broken. And somehow, we as Americans have allowed that to happen. And I don't know what you think about it, but I'm damned mad about it, and I'm doing everything I can, across the country, to tell people that I believe this; to tell them how I think the Federal bureaucracy needs to be repaired—including the Congress of the United States; its committee relationship with the Executive branch is absurd, it's an anachronism. The Congress needs to be reformed, the Executive branch needs to be reformed.

But the big problem we're confronted with is going to come to bear again, very shortly: it's this insane process where you have less than 50% of Americans electing our President. And if you think about that, that means one in four, actually elect him or her. And this insane process of primaries, and factions, as Washington called it—not parties; he called it "factions"—who go out there and appeal to their extremes, and are successful in doing so! We have to do something about that, and the only people who can do something about that, are us.

Don't it always seem to go you don't know what you've got 'till its gone?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Bring it On

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States plans to let a landmark nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia expire in 2009 and replace it with a less formal agreement that eliminates strict verification requirements and weapons limits, a senior U.S. official says.

This would continue President George W. Bush's practice of repudiating arms control as a means of curbing nuclear weapons while relying more on countermeasures like export controls, interdiction and sanctions.

This approach makes many arms control experts uneasy, but the Democratic-led U.S. Congress has shown little interest in the START treaty's fate...

Per capita thyroid doses in the continental United States of Iodine-131 resulting from all exposure routes from all atmospheric nuclear tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site.

That's because what's good for General Dynamics, General Electric, Northrop-Grumman, Lockheed, and dozens other corporations who might profit from new nukes is good for Bu$hCo-Cheneyburton and the $ycophants in Congress.

The real reasons why the American and the Soviets called a ban on testing may have been that the bombs were getting so very large. The last American test yeilded a blast almost 4 times greater than what was expected, the 15 megaton (one megaton is equivalent in energy to one million tons of dynamite) Castle Bravo blast.

The Soviets, of course, had to one-up us. They did, and from all accounts, the results of their own test scared the living shit out of them. The 50 megaton Tsar Bomba blast.

The fireball touched the ground, reached nearly as high as the altitude of the release plane, and was seen and felt 1,000 km away. The heat from the explosion could have caused third degree burns 100 km away from ground zero. The subsequent mushroom cloud was about 60 km high (nearly seven times higher than Mount Everest)and 30–40 km wide. The explosion could be seen and felt in Finland, even breaking windows there[citation needed]. Atmospheric focusing caused blast damage up to 1,000 km away. The seismic shock created by the detonation was measurable even on its third passage around the Earth. Its Richter magnitude was about 5 to 5.25.

Since 50 Mt is 2.1×1017 joules, the average power produced during the entire fission-fusion process, lasting around 39 nanoseconds, was a power of about 5.4×1024 watts or 5.4 yottawatts. This is equivalent to approximately 1% of the power output of the Sun. The detonation of Tsar Bomba therefore qualifies as being the single most powerful device ever utilized throughout the history of humanity...

That's my Bu$h, bringing the Apocalypse home to the Faithful.

Misquotes from the Main$tream

Sean-Paul Kelley notes that what the main$tream is saying about the IAEA's report on Iranian nuclear capability isn't what the IAEA's really said:

...What is at issue here today is whether recent reports of Iranian breakthroughs in enrichment are true. Before today's report it was pretty clear the media's claims were not correct. The claims had been completely debunked by experts before the IAEA report came out. And yet the claims still managed to form the dominant media narrative, as this ABC Report reiterates :

"The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to confirm Iran's rapid progress in advancing its uranium enrichment program in a report due tomorrow."

The only problem is that the report confirms no such thing. What the report details and conversations with arms control experts confirm is that the Iranians have made no major breakthroughs like that claimed by David E. Sanger of the New York Times. Furthermore, his story of May 15 was, as one expert put it, "misleading and sensationalized."

The relevant portions of the IAEA Report, released today, conclude:

"Since the Director General's last report, Iran has fed approximately 260 kg of UF6 into the cascades at FEP. Iran has declared that it has reached enrichment levels up to 4.8% U-235 at FEP, which the Agency is in the process of verifying. On 13 May 2007, eight 164-machine cascades were operating simultaneously and were being fed with UF6; two other similar cascades had been vacuum tested and three more were under construction."

Dr. Jeffrey Lewis of the Belfer Center wrote "[that] Iran does seem to be making steady progress toward continuous operation of their centrifuges." But this is hardly indicative of a nuclear program about to start spitting out bomb grade material next week.

This evidence, presented in the IAEA report, says Paul Kerr of Arms Control Today "does not support [the] rapid progress" described by Sanger in his article and portrayed by the media as a whole. Kerr added, "it doesn't seem like [the Iranians] have crossed a major threshold."

The claims filtering in and out of the media that Iran is one to two years away from producing bomb grade material are, to put it mildly, wildly inaccurate, as the report notes the Iranians are only reprocessing moderate amounts of UF6 to 4.8% U-235, and bomb grade material must be at least 80%.

Will the media correct its inflamed and sensationalized claims in light of this latest of IAEA reports?

Short answer: as long as the people that own the main$tream continue to make warbucks, no.

Yellowcake, anyone?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Same Game, Different Stories

Darth Cheney gave a nonpolitical speech to the new graduating class at West Point today.

Vice President Dick Cheney on Saturday urged the 978 new graduates of the U.S. Military Academy to provide leadership to troops fighting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Noting that West Point is about 50 miles north of where terrorists struck lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001, the vice president said, “Nobody can promise us we won’t be hit again.”

He received standing ovations before and after he spoke to a crowd of about 20,000. To the emerging Army second lieutenants, Cheney appealed for them to defend freedom against those who would destroy it and carry forward the academy’s values of duty, honor and country...

Darth Cheney, you keep using those words. I do not think they mean what you think they mean. He must have left his audience confused, because there was no rush to the podium to apprehend the man whose lust for money and power has besmirched the Academy's values.

Meanwhile, the DIA's Ministry of Truth released the following to the world's press, Iran's Top Seekrit Plan to Win in Iraq:

Iran is secretly forging ties with al-Qaida elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces intended to tip a wavering US Congress into voting for full military withdrawal, US officials say.

"...Iran is fighting a proxy war in Iraq and it's a very dangerous course for them to be following. They are already committing daily acts of war against US and British forces," a senior US official in Baghdad warned. "They [Iran] are behind a lot of high-profile attacks meant to undermine US will and British will, such as the rocket attacks on Basra palace and the Green Zone [in Baghdad]. The attacks are directed by the Revolutionary Guard who are connected right to the top [of the Iranian government]."

Yes, I'm sure that the Wah'habi Sunni Saudi Al Qaeda are aligning themselves with their mortal enemies, the heretic Iranian Shiites, to gain control of the oil fields in Iraq they both want. While the newly elected Iraqi government cozys up to the Iranians to develop their oil without the intervention of Western corporations.

You just can't make this stuff up, it's such idiocy. But Bu$hCo-Cheneyburton can, and does repeatedly. It spouts this silliness as it's selling its allies its soft cop approach.

It's all rather like Dear Leader claiming he would use invasion of Iraq as a last resort. It certainly helped that he couldn't imagine any first resort.

Meanwhile, an Iranian village lost its own idiot who enjoys his own brinksmanship:

...Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, while addressing a gathering of religious figures in the holy city of Mashhad on May 16, posed the question, "How is it possible to hold talks with the US's arrogant, bullying, expansionist administration and its impolite, reckless and demanding officials?"

There are no easy answers. As the countdown began for the Baghdad talks, in a series of moves, Washington rebuffed Iran's search for "logical, principled and fair ties" (to quote Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki) with the US.

First, Washington has adopted an inexplicably obdurate stance over the detention of five Iranian diplomats who were kidnapped by US forces in the northern Iraqi town of Irbil in January. Their continued detention is illogical insofar as their kidnapping itself has turned out to be a fiasco, a case of mistaken identity. The US has turned down the Iranian request for consular access to the detainees, sought through the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Arguably, the US is provoking a "hostage crisis" with Iran. Tehran understands Washington's game plan. So far it has reacted with prudence. However, patience is wearing thin. Mottaki said on May 18, "In meetings with the Iraqi president, prime minister, foreign minister and other senior officials, I have told them clearly that the Iraqi government is responsible for releasing the kidnapped Iranian diplomats, and no excuse is acceptable." A crisis is no doubt brewing unless Washington releases the diplomats during the next couple of weeks.

Within two days of Mottaki's warning, Tehran charged a noted American scholar at the Smithsonian Institution's Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Haleh Esfandiari (who was visiting Iran), with subversive activities against the Iranian regime. The Iranian authorities have detained four Iranian-American nationals in recent weeks...

Of course, our village idiot's brinksmanship seems to have also done wonders for Syria's, where, just like Iran, the strongmen get stronger.

And those reinforcements crowding the Persian Gulf even further? Sounds like another last resort in search of the first one. Doubtless the soft cop approach Dear Leader's trying to sell the British public so they $elect him another poodle.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Golden Compass

This December, Light in the Darkness.

Lambert's right. The Christianists of the Dominion are going to hate this!

More on Pullman here.


With an expansion of the official (instead of just the covert) War on Terra to Iran, with excuses- bald faced lies- that don't begin to match the reality of the Iraq insurgency, we begin to see this meme erupting again in the progressive blogsphere: that the Cheney cabal is working for war against the will of the rest of the administration.

...The Pentagon and the intelligence establishment are providing support to add muscle and nuance to the diplomatic effort led by Condi Rice, her deputy John Negroponte, Under Secretary of State R. Nicholas Burns, and Legal Adviser John Bellinger. The support that Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and CIA Director Michael Hayden are providing Rice's efforts are a complete, 180 degree contrast to the dysfunction that characterized relations between these institutions before the recent reshuffle of top personnel.

However, the Department of Defense and national intelligence sector are also preparing for hot conflict. They believe that they need to in order to convince Iran's various power centers that the military option does exist.

But this is worrisome. The person in the Bush administration who most wants a hot conflict with Iran is Vice President Cheney. The person in Iran who most wants a conflict is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran's Revolutionary Guard Quds Force would be big winners in a conflict as well -- as the political support that both have inside Iran has been flagging.

Multiple sources have reported that a senior aide on Vice President Cheney's national security team has been meeting with policy hands of the American Enterprise Institute, one other think tank, and more than one national security consulting house and explicitly stating that Vice President Cheney does not support President Bush's tack towards Condoleezza Rice's diplomatic efforts and fears that the President is taking diplomacy with Iran too seriously.

This White House official has stated to several Washington insiders that Cheney is planning to deploy an "end run strategy" around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument.

The thinking on Cheney's team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran's nuclear activities and international frustration over this to mount a small-scale conventional strike against Natanz using cruise missiles (i.e., not ballistic missiles).

This strategy would sidestep controversies over bomber aircraft and overflight rights over other Middle East nations and could be expected to trigger a sufficient Iranian counter-strike against US forces in the Gulf -- which just became significantly larger -- as to compel Bush to forgo the diplomatic track that the administration realists are advocating and engage in another war.

There are many other components of the complex game plan that this Cheney official has been kicking around Washington. The official has offered this commentary to senior staff at AEI and in lunch and dinner gatherings which were to be considered strictly off-the-record, but there can be little doubt that the official actually hopes that hawkish conservatives and neoconservatives share this information and then rally to this point of view. This official is beating the brush and doing what Joshua Muravchik has previously suggested -- which is to help establish the policy and political pathway to bombing Iran.

The zinger of this information is the admission by this Cheney aide that Cheney himself is frustrated with President Bush and believes, much like Richard Perle, that Bush is making a disastrous mistake by aligning himself with the policy course that Condoleezza Rice, Bob Gates, Michael Hayden and McConnell have sculpted.

According to this official, Cheney believes that Bush can not be counted on to make the "right decision" when it comes to dealing with Iran and thus Cheney believes that he must tie the President's hands...

Yes, there it is again, the meme of a conscientious and patriotic group of people like Robert Gates and Condi Rice led by the erudite John Negroponte struggling against Dr. Evil himself, Sith Lord Cheneyburton.

What a lot of bullshit.

Everyone of these people stands to make millions- billions- of dollars if the Company controls Iranian oil like it wants to control Iraqi oil.

There is no doubt in my mind Negroponte would like to have the kind of position and income Dick Cheney enjoys. There is no doubt in my mind there are tensions among the courtiers of the Bu$h crime family. It extends throughout the Beltway, in both parties, and remains endemic no matter how hard the rest of us shout at our Representatives.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Gentleman's Ring

Greg Palast notes the Judiciary Committee at the Brink with Monica Goodling- and retreating.

...Goodling testified that Gonzales' Chief of Staff, Kyle Sampson, perjured himself, lying to the committee in earlier testimony. The lie: Sampson denied Monica had told him about Tim Griffin's "involvement in 'caging' voters" in 2004.

Huh?? Tim Griffin? "Caging"???

The perplexed committee members hadn't a clue --- and asked no substantive questions about it thereafter. Karl Rove is still smiling. If the members had gotten the clue, and asked the right questions, they would have found "the keys to the kingdom," they thought they were looking for. They dangled right in front of their perplexed faces.

The keys: the missing emails --- and missing link --- that could send Griffin and his boss, Rove, to the slammer for a long, long time.

Kingdom enough for ya?

But what's 'caging' and why is it such a dreadful secret that lawyer Sampson put his license to practice and his freedom on the line to cover Tim Griffin's involvement in it? Because it's a felony. And a big one.

Here's how caging worked, and along with Griffin's thoughtful emails themselves you'll understand it all in no time.

The Bush-Cheney operatives sent hundreds of thousands of letters marked "Do not forward" to voters' homes. Letters returned ("caged") were used as evidence to block these voters' right to cast a ballot on grounds they were registered at phony addresses. Who were the evil fakers? Homeless men, students on vacation and --- you got to love this --- American soldiers. Oh yeah: most of them are Black voters...

Palast suggests the Committee acted in inept confusion. This seems doubtful. These aren't political novices. They knew perfectly well what they weren't asking.

They were angling for Abu Gonzo, because it’s a Gentleman’s game.

The game is to check Bu$hCo-Cheneyburton by scapegoating their fixer, not destroy the Ring of Power, just win it for their own use.

Exposing the scam that the Amerikan preznitial $electoral process has become would dry up the money river, and nobody in the Beltway wants that.

Say what you really think, Keith

Olbermann is righteous:

This is, in fact, a comment about… betrayal.

Few men or women elected in our history—whether executive or legislative, state or national—have been sent into office with a mandate more obvious, nor instructions more clear:

Get us out of Iraq.

Yet after six months of preparation and execution—half a year gathering the strands of public support; translating into action, the collective will of the nearly 70 percent of Americans who reject this War of Lies, the Democrats have managed only this:

* The Democratic leadership has surrendered to a president—if not the worst president, then easily the most selfish, in our history—who happily blackmails his own people, and uses his own military personnel as hostages to his asinine demand, that the Democrats “give the troops their money”;
* The Democratic leadership has agreed to finance the deaths of Americans in a war that has only reduced the security of Americans;
* The Democratic leadership has given Mr. Bush all that he wanted, with the only caveat being, not merely meaningless symbolism about benchmarks for the Iraqi government, but optional meaningless symbolism about benchmarks for the Iraqi government.
* The Democratic leadership has, in sum, claimed a compromise with the Administration, in which the only things truly compromised, are the trust of the voters, the ethics of the Democrats, and the lives of our brave, and doomed, friends, and family, in Iraq.

You, the men and women elected with the simplest of directions—Stop The War—have traded your strength, your bargaining position, and the uniform support of those who elected you… for a handful of magic beans.
You may trot out every political cliché from the soft-soap, inside-the-beltway dictionary of boilerplate sound bites, about how this is the “beginning of the end” of Mr. Bush’s “carte blanche” in Iraq, about how this is a “first step.”
Well, Senator Reid, the only end at its beginning... is our collective hope that you and your colleagues would do what is right, what is essential, what you were each elected and re-elected to do.
Because this “first step”… is a step right off a cliff.

And this President!
How shameful it would be to watch an adult... hold his breath, and threaten to continue to do so, until he turned blue.
But how horrifying it is… to watch a President hold his breath and threaten to continue to do so, until innocent and patriotic Americans in harm’s way, are bled white.
You lead this country, sir?
You claim to defend it?
And yet when faced with the prospect of someone calling you on your stubbornness—your stubbornness which has cost 3,431 Americans their lives and thousands more their limbs—you, Mr. Bush, imply that if the Democrats don’t give you the money and give it to you entirely on your terms, the troops in Iraq will be stranded, or forced to serve longer, or have to throw bullets at the enemy with their bare hands.
How transcendentally, how historically, pathetic.
Any other president from any other moment in the panorama of our history would have, at the outset of this tawdry game of political chicken, declared that no matter what the other political side did, he would insure personally—first, last and always—that the troops would not suffer.
A President, Mr. Bush, uses the carte blanche he has already, not to manipulate an overlap of arriving and departing Brigades into a ‘second surge,’ but to say in unequivocal terms that if it takes every last dime of the monies already allocated, if it takes reneging on government contracts with Halliburton, he will make sure the troops are safe—even if the only safety to be found, is in getting them the hell out of there.
Well, any true President would have done that, Sir.
You instead, used our troops as political pawns, then blamed the Democrats when you did so.

Not that these Democrats, who had this country’s support and sympathy up until 48 hours ago, have not since earned all the blame they can carry home.

“We seem to be very near the bleak choice between war and shame,” Winston Churchill wrote to Lord Moyne in the days after the British signed the Munich accords with Germany in 1938. “My feeling is that we shall choose shame, and then have war thrown in, a little later…”

That’s what this is for the Democrats, isn’t it?

Their “Neville Chamberlain moment” before the Second World War.
All that’s missing is the landing at the airport, with the blinkered leader waving a piece of paper which he naively thought would guarantee “peace in our time,” but which his opponent would ignore with deceit.
The Democrats have merely streamlined the process.
Their piece of paper already says Mr. Bush can ignore it, with impugnity.

And where are the Democratic presidential hopefuls this evening?
See they not, that to which the Senate and House leadership has blinded itself?

Judging these candidates based on how they voted on the original Iraq authorization, or waiting for apologies for those votes, is ancient history now.

The Democratic nomination is likely to be decided... tomorrow.
The talk of practical politics, the buying into of the President’s dishonest construction “fund-the-troops-or-they-will-be-in-jeopardy,” the promise of tougher action in September, is falling not on deaf ears, but rather falling on Americans who already told you what to do, and now perceive your ears as closed to practical politics.
Those who seek the Democratic nomination need to—for their own political futures and, with a thousand times more solemnity and importance, for the individual futures of our troops—denounce this betrayal, vote against it, and, if need be, unseat Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi if they continue down this path of guilty, fatal acquiescence to the tragically misguided will of a monomaniacal president.

For, ultimately, at this hour, the entire government has failed us.

* Mr. Reid, Mr. Hoyer, and the other Democrats... have failed us.
They negotiated away that which they did not own, but had only been entrusted by us to protect: our collective will as the citizens of this country, that this brazen War of Lies be ended as rapidly and safely as possible.
* Mr. Bush and his government... have failed us.
They have behaved venomously and without dignity—of course.
That is all at which Mr. Bush is gifted.
We are the ones providing any element of surprise or shock here.

With the exception of Senator Dodd and Senator Edwards, the Democratic presidential candidates have (so far at least) failed us.

They must now speak, and make plain how they view what has been given away to Mr. Bush, and what is yet to be given away tomorrow, and in the thousand tomorrows to come.

Because for the next fourteen months, the Democratic nominating process—indeed the whole of our political discourse until further notice—has, with the stroke of a cursed pen, become about one thing, and one thing alone.
The electorate figured this out, six months ago.
The President and the Republicans have not—doubtless will not.
The Democrats will figure it out, during the Memorial Day recess, when they go home and many of those who elected them will politely suggest they stay there—and permanently.
Because, on the subject of Iraq...
The people have been ahead of the media....
Ahead of the government...
Ahead of the politicians...
For the last year, or two years, or maybe three.

Our politics... is now about the answer to one briefly-worded question.
Mr. Bush has failed.
Mr. Warner has failed.
Mr. Reid has failed.
Who among us will stop this war—this War of Lies?
To he or she, fall the figurative keys to the nation.
To all the others—presidents and majority leaders and candidates and rank-and-file Congressmen and Senators of either party—there is only blame… for this shameful, and bi-partisan, betrayal.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Divided We Stand

Tonight I'm in San Francisco, and like most big cities, the divide between the rich and the poor is jarring.

And everywhere.

Bob Herbert:

...A public high school teacher in Brooklyn told me recently about a student who didn’t believe that a restaurant tab for four people could come to more than $500. The student shook his head, as if resisting the very idea. He just couldn’t fathom it.

“How much can you eat?” the student asked.

When I asked a teacher in a second school to mention the same issue, one of the responses was, “Is this a true story?”

A lot of New Yorkers are doing awfully well. There are 8 million residents of New York City, and roughly 700,000 are worth a million dollars or more. The average price of a Manhattan apartment is $1.3 million. The annual earnings of the average hedge fund manager is $363 million.

The estimated worth of the mayor, Michael Bloomberg, ranges from $5.5 billion to upwards of $20 billion.

You want a gilded age? This is it. The elite of the Roaring Twenties would be stunned by the wealth of the current era.

Now the flip side, which is the side those public school students are on. One of the city’s five counties, the Bronx, is the poorest urban county in the nation. The number of families in the city’s homeless shelters is the highest it has been in a quarter of a century. Twenty-five percent of all families with children in New York City — that’s 1.5 million New Yorkers — are trying to make it on incomes that are below the poverty threshold established by the federal government.

The streets that are paved with gold for some are covered with ash for many others. There are few better illustrations of the increasingly disturbing divide between rich and poor than New York City.

“I get to walk in both worlds,” said Larry Mandell, the president of the United Way of New York City. “In a given day I might be in a soup kitchen and also in the halls of Fortune 500 companies dealing with the senior executives. I’ve become acutely aware that the lives of those who are well off are not touched at all by contact with the poor. It’s not that people don’t care or don’t want to help. It’s that they have very little awareness of poverty.”

I’d always thought of the United Way as a charitable outfit. But Mr. Mandell has committed his organization to the important task of raising the awareness of Americans and their political leaders to the pressing needs of America’s cities, and especially the long-neglected, poverty-stricken neighborhoods of the inner cities.

It’s a measure of how low the bar has been set for success in America’s cities that New York is thought to be doing well, even though 185,000 of its children ages 5 or younger are poor, and 18,000 are consigned to homeless shelters each night. More than a million New Yorkers get food stamps, and another 700,000 are eligible but not receiving them. That’s a long, long way from a $500 restaurant tab.

Only 50 percent of the city’s high school students graduate in four years. And if you talk to the kids in the poorer neighborhoods, they will tell you that they don’t feel safe. They are worried about violence and gang activity, which in their view is getting worse, not better.

This is what’s going on in the nation’s most successful big city...

Those with money insulate themselves from the poor. After all, isn't that what prisons are for? And police? And if there were not poor, who would serve their betters?

With every day that passes, fossil fuels grow more expensive, and there are less in the world.

With every day that passes, the difference between the haves and the have-nots grows.

With every day that passes, the line that marks the rich and the poor shifts upwards.

Menage a trois

The not really Right, the not really Left, and the real honest-to-God Money continue to get down. Baby, you know they have some hot times, and David Sirota writes it up for you, as summarized below.

The term “triangulation” in politics means a set of leaders trying joining with their opponents to pass measures that run counter to those leaders’ own supporters. Typically, triangulation is practiced by presidents against their own parties in Congress, with the master of triangulation being President Bill Clinton who, among other things, rammed welfare reform and NAFTA “over the dead bodies” of rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers and the progressive movement. Can congressional leaders can pull the same move? Unfortunately, we’re going to find out very soon, as congressional Democratic leaders are very clearly attempting to triangulate against their own party on the three issues the party ran on to win Election 2006.


On trade, Public Citizen has shown [.pdf] that the Democratic Party relied on candidates who ran against lobbyist-written trade deals in order to win many of the crucial conservative-leaning districts that were necessary to win the congressional majority. Yet, as we’ve seen over the last week, a handful of senior Democratic leaders are joining with the Bush White House in an attempt to ram an ultra-secret free trade deal through Congress, acknowledging that in order to be successful, they will rely on all Republicans and just 25 percent of Democratic lawmakers. As rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers and organizations representing millions of workers, farmers and small businesses have raised objections to the deal, Reuters reports today that Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) is digging in, saying that if he knew what he knew now about how serious rank-and-file Democratic opposition to lobbyist-written trade policy was, he would have tried to negotiate the deal in even more secrecy than it was negotiated in in the first place.

On Bill Moyers’ terrific PBS report on Friday about the secret deal, author John R. MacArthur says the motivations for the triangulation on trade are obvious. “This is like the NAFTA campaign of the ’90s, an attempt by the Democratic leadership - in those days it was the Clintons - to raise money from Wall Street.” You can watch Bill Moyers’ entire piece on the secret deal here.

This drive to triangulate on trade has now reached a point where the handful of Democrats who made the deal are publicly attacking those rank-and-file Democratic lawmakers, labor, environmental, health, human rights, religious, consumer protection and agricultural groups raising questions about the deal. On Friday, Reuters reported that Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) “offered no apology” for negotiating the deal in secret or for continuing to conceal the legislative text of the deal. Instead, he went on the attack, saying the only thing he would do differently would be to “ignore a lot of people that really were just wasting my time.” He claimed innocently that “I cannot see how anybody would be upset” by the deal, even though as Public Citizen shows today, the list of reforms to current trade policies [.pdf] that fair trade groups forwarded to Democratic leaders many months ago was almost entirely brushed aside by Rangel, as were proposals for a whole new framework for global trade deals.

TRIANGULATION STRATEGY: The dynamics set up a situation whereby the Democratic congressional leadership and less than half of all Democratic lawmakers (as during NAFTA) join with all Republicans to ram a free trade package through Congress over the objections of the progressive movement and rank-and-file Democrats who ran against lobbyist-written trade policies in 2006.


Most observers agree that outrage at the Republican’s corruption scandals and Democrats promise to clean up the “culture of corruption” helped Democrats win in 2006. Yet, late last week, The Politico reported that Democrats on the House Judiciary committee yesterday “scrapped a beefed-up provision of the Lobbying Reform Bill that would have prohibited former lawmakers and senior staff from lobbying their former colleagues during their first two years out of office.” The original bill would have extended the revolving door ban from one to two years, but the amendment eliminating that provision passed by a unanimous voice vote. AP reports that “several days of backroom deal-making where some of the toughest proposed reforms were left on the cutting-room floor.” The shenanigans come just as freshman Democrats announced their demands for a much stronger anti-corruption bill.

TRIANGULATION STRATEGY: The dynamics set up a situation whereby the Democratic congressional leadership would join with all Republicans to ram a sham lobbying “reform” bill through Congress potentially over the objections of many of rank-and-file Democrats and the progressive movement.


Finally, Iraq - the big issue that helped Democrats win in 2006. The Associated Press reports that congressional Democratic leaders may be backing away from using their power to oppose the war, floating the possibility of an Iraq War supplemental bill that “would allow the president to waive compliance with a deadline for troop withdrawals.” The New York Times says that the “likelihood that any final agreement will specify no withdrawal date for American troops from Iraq raised the possibility that antiwar Democrats will not support it, particularly in the House, and that the measure will need substantial Republican support to pass.”

TRIANGULATION STRATEGY: The dynamics set up a situation whereby the Democratic congressional leadership would join with all Republicans to ram a blank check Iraq spending bill through Congress potentially over the objections of many of rank-and-file Democrats and the progressive movement.


Where is the motivation for triangulation coming from? As MacArthur says, at least some of it comes from money - especially the issues like trade and corruption that deal directly with Wall Street’s power over the Democratic Party. But I’d also say it comes from the psychology of those who the Democratic Party elders in Washington have grown used to listening to...

That has more than a little something to do with the kinds of people who have dominated the Democratic Party: Washington insiders, many of whom are former Clinton officials...

We see this with, for instance, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL)... He is running around bragging about working to pass the secret trade deal over the objections of 75 percent of congressional Democrats, and he has been using his position as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus to try to prevent an open debate on the still-secret deal.

Then there is Leon Panetta, a former chief of staff to Clinton...

Panetta doesn’t care about what’s being talked about, or the substance of whatever deals are made on issues - all he seems to care about is making a deal. This same kind of attitude is spewed by the Beltway press, as evidenced by its trumpeting of the secret trade deal without ever having seen the actual legislative language of the deal. It is a psychology that prioritizes any deal on any issue - even one that sells out the Democratic Party’s agenda and the interests of the vast majority of the American people - is good...

"This whole free speech thing has gone way too far"

The Bu$hCo-Cheneyburton Fixer & Enforcer General, Abu Gonzo, is probably thinking right now.

Thus, the call among the government's finest private contractors for this:

NEW YORK - Although it has already taken nearly four decades to get this far in building the Internet, some university researchers with the federal government's blessing want to scrap all that and start over...

The National Science Foundation wants to build an experimental research network known as the Global Environment for Network Innovations, or GENI, and is funding several projects at universities and elsewhere through Future Internet Network Design, or FIND.

Rutgers, Stanford, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are among the universities pursuing individual projects. Other government agencies, including the Defense Department, have also been exploring the concept...

Clean-slate advocates say the cozy world of researchers in the 1970s and 1980s doesn't necessarily mesh with the realities and needs of the commercial Internet...

In other words, the golden rule. Those that have the gold, make the rules.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Squatter's Rights

Think Progress:

...one scenario being considered within the Pentagon would maintain a strong U.S. military presence in Iraq for several decades into the future.

This so-called “lily pad” strategy entails keeping a “series of military installations around Iraq,” with tens of thousands of U.S. troops remaining in the country for as long as a few decades:

"[W]hat it essentially envisions is a series of military installations around Iraq, maybe five or six of them, a total of maybe 30-40 thousand U.S. troops in Iraq for a long period of time, lasting, maybe a few decades. And the idea is that these bases will be somewhat hermetically sealed, that U.S. military forces won’t be leaving them, they won’t be conducting presence patrols and the patrols they conduct now. Ground convoys won’t be driving into them.

"Airplanes will be essentially landing in to deliver supplies and these sort of lily pads will be in various strategic areas in Iraq … And that will enable the U.S. military to maintain a presence in the country, perhaps…for a few decades."

The Pentagon’s goal with the lily pads is to preserve U.S. interests in Iraq for years to come “in the event that Congress or the administration pushes this [withdrawal plan] forward.” As NPR details, those interests are at least three-fold: 1) Training Iraq forces, 2) Preserving economic interests, as “Iraq obviously [sits] on the second largest reserve of oil in the world,” and 3) Providing a U.S. military “presence” to deter Iran and Turkey from “getting involved” after withdrawal.

While 60 percent of Americans are calling for a withdrawal of the U.S. from Iraq, the Pentagon is instead making preparations for an unending occupying presence.

War without end.

You expected different?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

But at least they won't freeze to death

Diethylene glycol, a poisonous ingredient in some antifreeze, has been found in 6,000 tubes of toothpaste in Panama, and customs officials there said yesterday that the product appeared to have originated in China.

“Our preliminary information is that it came from China, but we don’t know that with certainty yet,” said Daniel Delgado Diamante, Panama’s director of customs. “We are still checking all the possible imports to see if there could be other shipments.”

Some of the toothpaste, which arrived several months ago in the free trade zone next to the Panama Canal, was re-exported to the Dominican Republic in seven shipments, customs officials said. A newspaper in Australia reported yesterday that one brand of the toothpaste had been found on supermarket shelves there and had been recalled.

Diethylene glycol is the same poison that the Panamanian government inadvertently mixed into cold medicine last year, killing at least 100 people. Records show that in that episode the poison, falsely labeled as glycerin, a harmless syrup, also originated in China.

There is no evidence that the tainted toothpaste is in the United States, according to American government officials.

Panamanian health officials said diethylene glycol had been found in two brands of toothpaste, labeled in English as Excel and Mr. Cool. The tubes contained diethylene glycol concentrations of between 1.7 percent and 4.6 percent, said Luis Martínez, a prosecutor who is looking into the shipments.

Health officials say they do not believe the toothpaste is harmful, because users spit it out after brushing, but they nonetheless took it out of circulation...

It's only harmful if you're one of the 100 ('at least') that died in Panama. American kidneys, it seems, are made of sterner stuff. Or maybe not: diethylene glycol poisoning is why the FDA was created in the first place.

But have no worry. The offical story is beginning to show those points of light we associate with Pravda. Why, only a couple of weeks ago it was this:

...Last year, government officials there unwittingly mixed diethylene glycol into 260,000 bottles of cold medicine — with devastating results. Families have reported 365 deaths from the poison, 100 of which have been confirmed so far. With the onset of the rainy season, investigators are racing to exhume as many potential victims as possible before bodies decompose even more.

Panama’s death toll leads directly to Chinese companies that made and exported the poison as 99.5 percent pure glycerin...

See? "...at least 100" sounds much better than "Families have reported 365 deaths". Which sounds far better that 260,000.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Terra Watchlist

Check out the lengthy list that made the terrorist watchlist for the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Look at the whole thing. Now check out the bottom of the list:

Democratic National Committee
Darfur Rehabilitiation
Coalition of Fire and Police Unions

Amazing stuff. [with thanks to Mike Finnigan at Crooks and Liars]

Power Sought by Those Least Suited for It

The National Association of State Boards of Education will elect officers in July, and for one office, president-elect, there is only one candidate: a member of the Kansas school board who supported its efforts against the teaching of evolution.

Scientists who have been active in the nation’s evolution debate say they want to thwart his candidacy, but it is not clear that they can.

The candidate is Kenneth R. Willard, a Kansas Republican who voted with the conservative majority in 2005 when the school board changed the state’s science standards to allow inclusion of intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism. Voters later replaced that majority, but Mr. Willard, an insurance executive from Hutchinson, retained his seat. If he becomes president-elect of the national group, he will take office in January 2009.

The group, based in Washington, is a nonprofit organization of state school boards whose Web site (www.nasbe.org) says it “works to strengthen state leadership in educational policymaking.”

Brenda L. Welburn, its executive director, said Mr. Willard’s only opponent in the race withdrew for personal reasons after the period for nominations had closed. Each state has one vote in the election...

Sock Puppets for the Plan

One more thing on the Christianista.

You might enjoy Jeff Wells's perspective on Falwell.

The Jack Kirby interview is also great, too.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Offending the Gods of Cyberspace

I find penny ante deities exceeding tedious. Especially those mortals who're trying exceeding hard to ascend the demigod ranks into the Heavenly Choir of the Beltway. But Democrats are different than Republicans, right?

I have a friend, a VietNam vet, who has an exceedingly hot head. It's an old head, but a good one. Some of you may know him from the boards at Eschaton. He's been posting there for the last four years or so.

He goes by the handle Woody Guthrie's Guitar. He has a couple of blogs, The Well-Armed Lamb and Walled-In Pond. But again, some of his best work has been his zippy one liners, like "NPR = Faux News for folks with more than a high-school education."

He's been consistently far ahead of the curve, calling the crooked moves of Bu$hCo-Cheneyburton ahead of the game. He didn't use a pseudonym when I first met him; I talked him into that, I think, and right now he's probably glad he did. You see, he seems to have said something very politically incorrect that's gotten him banned from the Eschaton boards, his long-time favorite hangout.

Now, in my book Jerry Falwell was a despicable human being. I agree with his detractors on the right like Christopher Hitchens or on the left like WGG. The world would have been a much better place without Jerry Falwell.

Let's leave the final quote on Falwell to The Dark Wraith:

The Reverend Jerry Falwell is dead. His Thomas Road Baptist Church, founded in 1956 in Lynchburg, Virginia, was one of the principal well-springs of politicized evangelicalism that waged war against those who worked for a liberal, open, progressive, tolerant society.

Dr. Falwell will be missed by millions of devout Christians who believed his message to have been authentic and in keeping with a strict, literal interpretation of the Holy Bible. Millions of others, however, firmly held that Falwell was a charlatan who preyed on the lonely, the disaffected, the ignorant, and the lost to advance his personal fortune and power using a hateful interpretation of Christianity that imposed suffering on many while doing nothing to alleviate misery, end poverty, and provide earthly hope.

God, I love an articulate slam of the coffin.

I'm sorry for the pain this causes those of us who empathize with the Falwell family's loss. But look at the damage the Christianists (a very different thing than Christians) have done, and continue to do, to this country and the larger world. If it causes you pain to be made aware of the evil you do, then maybe you shouldn't do evil.

Perhaps if the people causing the pain in the world were feeling it every time they hurt someone, they wouldn't do it.

WGG's comment seems to have gotten him banned from Eschaton. To which I have to say: it's Duncan's place, WGG. He rightfully can do that if he wants. There are other good community blogs that would welcome you. Lambert wasn't too polite to Falwell's memory either.

I suspect Duncan is going the way of Kos. As the Dems get closer to the election, they'll both try to get more "respectable" so they can get the Beltway buzz. Hell, they might get to sit with Michael Moore in Jimmy Carter's box in 2008 when HHHillary gets the nomination.

If they bring enough money to the table.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Laughing in the Dark

Mark Crispin Miller nails it again.

Watch it.

While you're at it, read an excerpt from The Assault on Reason.

...Not long before our nation launched the invasion of Iraq, our longest-serving Senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood on the Senate floor and said: "This chamber is, for the most part, silent—ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing. We stand passively mute in the United States Senate."

Why was the Senate silent?

In describing the empty chamber the way he did, Byrd invited a specific version of the same general question millions of us have been asking: "Why do reason, logic and truth seem to play a sharply diminished role in the way America now makes important decisions?" The persistent and sustained reliance on falsehoods as the basis of policy, even in the face of massive and well-understood evidence to the contrary, seems to many Americans to have reached levels that were previously unimaginable.

A large and growing number of Americans are asking out loud: "What has happened to our country?" People are trying to figure out what has gone wrong in our democracy, and how we can fix it.

To take another example, for the first time in American history, the Executive Branch of our government has not only condoned but actively promoted the treatment of captives in wartime that clearly involves torture, thus overturning a prohibition established by General George Washington during the Revolutionary War.

It is too easy—and too partisan—to simply place the blame on the policies of President George W. Bush. We are all responsible for the decisions our country makes. We have a Congress. We have an independent judiciary. We have checks and balances. We are a nation of laws. We have free speech. We have a free press. Have they all failed us? Why has America's public discourse become less focused and clear, less reasoned? Faith in the power of reason—the belief that free citizens can govern themselves wisely and fairly by resorting to logical debate on the basis of the best evidence available, instead of raw power—remains the central premise of American democracy. This premise is now under assault.

American democracy is now in danger—not from any one set of ideas, but from unprecedented changes in the environment within which ideas either live and spread, or wither and die. I do not mean the physical environment; I mean what is called the public sphere, or the marketplace of ideas.

It is simply no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know I am not alone in feeling that something has gone fundamentally wrong...

As a young lawyer giving his first significant public speech at the age of 28, Abraham Lincoln warned that a persistent period of dysfunction and unresponsiveness by government could alienate the American people and that "the strongest bulwark of any government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectively be broken down and destroyed—I mean the attachment of the people."

Many Americans now feel that our government is unresponsive and that no one in power listens to or cares what they think. They feel disconnected from democracy. They feel that one vote makes no difference, and that they, as individuals, have no practical means of participating in America's self-government. Unfortunately, they are not entirely wrong.

Voters are often viewed mainly as targets for easy manipulation by those seeking their "consent" to exercise power. By using focus groups and elaborate polling techniques, those who design these messages are able to derive the only information they're interested in receiving from citizens—feedback useful in fine-tuning their efforts at manipulation....

Many young Americans now seem to feel that the jury is out on whether American democracy actually works or not. We have created a wealthy society with tens of millions of talented, resourceful individuals who play virtually no role whatsoever as citizens. Bringing these people in—with their networks of influence, their knowledge, and their resources—is the key to creating the capacity for shared intelligence that we need to solve our problems.

Unfortunately, the legacy of the 20th century's ideologically driven bloodbaths has included a new cynicism about reason itself—because reason was so easily used by propagandists to disguise their impulse to power by cloaking it in clever and seductive intellectual formulations. When people don't have an opportunity to interact on equal terms and test the validity of what they're being "taught" in the light of their own experience and robust, shared dialogue, they naturally begin to resist the assumption that the experts know best.

So the remedy for what ails our democracy is not simply better education (as important as that is) or civic education (as important as that can be), but the re-establishment of a genuine democratic discourse in which individuals can participate in a meaningful way—a conversation of democracy in which meritorious ideas and opinions from individuals do, in fact, evoke a meaningful response.

Fortunately, the Internet has the potential to revitalize the role played by the people in our constitutional framework. It has extremely low entry barriers for individuals. It is the most interactive medium in history and the one with the greatest potential for connecting individuals to one another and to a universe of knowledge. It's a platform for pursuing the truth, and the decentralized creation and distribution of ideas, in the same way that markets are a decentralized mechanism for the creation and distribution of goods and services. It's a platform, in other words, for reason.

But the Internet must be developed and protected, in the same way we develop and protect markets—through the establishment of fair rules of engagement and the exercise of the rule of law. The same ferocity that our Founders devoted to protect the freedom and independence of the press is now appropriate for our defense of the freedom of the Internet. The stakes are the same: the survival of our Republic.

We must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Web. We cannot take this future for granted. We must be prepared to fight for it, because of the threat of corporate consolidation and control over the Internet marketplace of ideas...

Yup. As much as I love Big Al, I broke up some of his tomic paragraphs so they could be read. He's a great visionary guy, but sometimes writes like it's the early 20th century.

And being a real Christian himself, he has a hard time seeing the Company has simply become a vehicle for the Dominion.

Maybe he should talk with Mr. Miller awhile.

Outsourced Hits from Outsourced Hitmen

Dr. Hillhouse has a new book she's asked me plug for her, Outsourced.

If she knew anything classified about secret intelligence operations that you needed to know but might be illegal for you to know she might hypothetically write a novel and claim it was all fiction. Just so she could get the information out.

Because let's face it, the private contractors pretty much own everything Washington has to buy. You cut in the right people, and just about anything can be bought, especially if you're smart and connected enough to use the credit of the United States government to pay for it. Slick operation. Using the money from the Feds to bribe Feds for access to money from the Feds.

It's got a symmetry to it, no? And it's bound to be fiction, right, because we all know it could never happen here.

Read her blog over sometime. I used to think I had reason to worry.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Purge your cookies, cache, and history early and often


Because not only is Big Brother watching, he's selling your information to his venal ba$e, too.

Leave it to The New York Pravda to paint a sunny entrepreneurial morning-in-Amerika glow around the invasion of your privacy:

...The big Web portals like Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft are working on it, trying to tease out which display ads should be shown and to whom. Last month, when Google paid $3.1 billion for DoubleClick, which specializes in software for display ads and has close relationships with Web publishers and advertisers, it declared that display ads would be crucial to its future strategy.

But besides the giant portals, there are scores of small, innovative companies — typically venture-backed start-ups — that are behind the revolution on Madison Avenue.

Industry analysts estimate that there are about 200 such companies. Many call themselves ad networks, while others are referred to as ad exchanges or optimization services. The roster includes Revenue Science, Tacoda, Tribal Fusion, Rapt, AdECN and x+1. In one way or another, they are all trying to bring more effectiveness to the online display ad market.

...The process of delivering relevant search-based ads is comparatively easy — a typed search term sets off related text ads, which appear next to the results, exposing consumers to sundry, generally relevant, advertisers.

Brand advertising, however, starts higher up on the marketing food chain; it is meant to foster brand and product awareness as well as purchases. The goal is to deliver select audiences — of thousands, even millions — to mass marketers.

The new science of online display advertising involves a potent mix of behavioral targeting, social networking algorithms, predictive economics, pricing optimization and other mathematical strategies.

These geeky tools are used to address the marketer’s quandary, well articulated by John Wanamaker, the 19th-century Philadelphia merchant who said that half the money he spent on advertising was wasted, but he didn’t know which half.

“We’re trying to not only tell which half of ads don’t work, but we’re not going to buy that half,” said Toby Gabriner, chief executive of x + 1, an ad optimization service in New York.

The ideal, Mr. Gabriner said, is to advertise only to prime customers. “Imagine an environment where the company that makes dentures and denture products only advertises to people who don’t have teeth,” he said.

The most common technique for identifying an audience is called behavioral targeting, which tracks, analyzes and predicts online behavior based on where you (actually your browser software) have gone before on the Internet. The ad targeters cull vast quantities of Web-viewing behavior and other data, like the speed of your Internet connection, the time of day you visited a site, whether it was done from work or home and even associated ZIP codes.

These defined audience clusters consist of people who share characteristics based on their behavior on the Internet, not personal information like names, ages, home addresses or telephone numbers. So, for example, a person who recently visited sports and auto Web sites and read global warming articles on news sites would most likely turn out to be an 18- to 45-year-old male. An algorithm would then determine that he would be a good candidate for an ad about Toyota’s hybrid-electric Prius. Advertisers are willing to pay much higher rates to reach such screened audiences.

“The technology finds the best virtual person for an advertiser and that person’s behavioral friends — in the thousands or millions,” said Bill Gossman, chief executive of Revenue Science, a behavioral targeting company in New York whose payroll has doubled to 70 employees in the last year.

The ads are not personalized electronic marketing, however, a prospect that was popularized in the movie “Minority Report,” in which virtual advertisements on the street addressed potential customers by name. But targeting companies do place small software programs, called cookies, on people’s personal computers to monitor their movements on the Web, making privacy advocates uneasy.

Tacoda is an ad network that specializes in behavioral targeting. Its network has 125 million individuals (PCs with the Tacoda cookie). Its software tags are also on 4,000 Web sites; and it collects nine billion data items a day. For every dollar it collects from an advertiser, Tacoda keeps 40 cents, gives 40 cents, as a broker, to the Web publisher displaying the ad and distributes 20 cents to the sites providing targeted data.

Tacoda, which is based in New York, works closely with Web sites at several large media companies, including ABC, NBC, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, as well as consumer-product companies and ad agencies. Computing and esoteric mathematics play a role in advertising on the Internet, but so do brand managers, publishing salespeople and ad strategists, said Curt Viebranz, chief executive of Tacoda and a former Time Warner executive. “There’s a lot here that transcends algorithms,” he said.

But automated efficiency is the online advantage. Right Media, for example, wanted to bring the supereffectiveness of the stock market to online display advertising.

The company was founded in 2003 by Mike Walrath, a former fitness manager at a New York Sports Club in Stamford, Conn., who went to work for DoubleClick in 1999. He experienced the dot-com boom and bust of the Internet ad business at DoubleClick, which he called his business school. He started Right Media with many contacts, as well as the belief that the online ad business was riddled with inefficiency.

The company’s first office was a reconverted supply closet at x+1, the optimization service. Right Media provided services for Web advertisers, like AOL, by poring through their data to determine where their ads were most effective. Working on Excel spreadsheets, Mr. Walrath and a few employees performed endless calculations, manual labor by today’s standards.

“It was me and a couple of quants in a windowless room and a willingness to stay up all night,” he said.

In 2005, Mr. Walrath opened the Right Media Exchange, in which advertisers and publishers buy and sell online ad placements in real time through auctions, with Right Media’s optimization technology predicting where the ads will work best. The exchange built gradually but really took off in the last year, handling tens of thousands of auctions in fractions of a second.

Its employment has more than doubled in the last year to 220, to include computer scientists and ad veterans. Last year, its customers transacted $150 million in deals on the exchange, and the company collected an average fee of 7.5 percent, or about $11 million for the year. Mr. Walrath predicted that the volume would more than triple this year.

Right Media’s rapid growth attracted Yahoo, which paid $40 million for a 20 percent stake last fall. Two weeks ago, Yahoo agreed to pay $680 million for the other 80 percent. An industry consultant put Mr. Walrath’s share at about $200 million. (Mr. Walrath, 32, would not confirm this.)

In an interview recently, he said: “Are we pleased? Absolutely. But we haven’t accomplished what we set out to do, which is to bring more efficiency and rationality to these markets. I’ll be here for a long time.”

I like that. They'll "bring more efficiency and rationality to these markets." And Order to the Galaxy, too, no doubt.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Like they'd admit It, or we'd ever know if it did

This morning The New York Pravda told us all we're 'pozed to know about CERN's Large Hadron Collider, which is designed to test some of the weirder aspects of subatomic structure.

Yup. You have to understand this. We have thermonuclear everything out there in DARPA/ D.o'D. land, we have nuclear reactors producing electricity about every major city, enough plutonium sitting around to wipe all life off the face of the earth, and we have to admit to ourselves when it comes to explaining the details of why- or even how- atoms do the things they do, we're basically arguing how many angels can dance on a pinhead.

Most of the physicists take Feyneman's word for it, or some high priest of science that understands his shorthand. It's not like you can challenge these kind of theories in your kitchen at home.

The same thing goes for gravity. Or time. Or the structure and age of the universe(s).

Aside from the long flowery graphic descriptions designed to make you feel at home yet incompetent next to the kewl kidz of Big Science, two things stand out: 1) it ain't being done here no more (one wonders, why- for about a half second); and, 2) what they might find.

But for the second question, you not only have to know what to ask, you have to follow a couple of links to a short aside article that doesn't appear in print:

What will the new Large Hadron Collider at Cern have to say about string theory, the alleged theory of everything that describes nature as composed of tiny wriggling strings?

String theorists hope that it will confirm supersymmetry, a notion that doubles the kinds of particles in the universe. and was originally invented as part of string theory. String theorists would be gratified by its discovery, but that would not prove their case.

In most cases, to test string theory directly, experimenters would have to build an accelerator to boost particles to the so-called Planck energy, at which “stringy” effects are expected to show up, roughly 10 quadrillion trillion electron volts. That is a quadrillion times the energy of the new hadron collider, which will accelerate protons to energies of seven trillion electron volts before smashing them together.

String theory’s hope for the new collider — and it is a slim one — rests on a long-shot variant of the theory in which gravity is not weaker than the other forces but has just been diluted by extra dimensions of space. In that case, the new collider could produce black holes or bounce particles into other dimensions.

John Ellis, a Cern theorist, said that possibility, which would give physicists a chance to study string theory and quantum gravity in the lab, was “almost too exciting to think about.”

Kind of like finding life on Mars, isn't it? Only some find the potential much more explosive.

Perhaps, our D.o'D. thinks, if they do produce a quantum black hole, better if it is on the other side of the planet.