Friday, August 31, 2007

"Run Away!!!"


Well, what do you know about that: Industrial nations shy away from stiff 2020 goals

Industrial nations were shying away from fixing stiff 2020 guidelines for greenhouse gases cuts at U.N. talks on Friday in what environmentalists said would be a vote for "dangerous" climate change.

A draft text at the U.N. talks dropped mention of steep cuts in greenhouse gases of 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 as a non-binding "guide" for rich nations' work on a pact to fight global warming beyond 2012, delegates said.

"We're still working on the text," said Leon Charles, the chair of the session from Grenada after overnight talks on the final day of August 27-31 meeting in Vienna of 1,000 delegates.

The European Union and many developing nations such as China and India wanted industrial states to use the stringent 25-40 percent range to guide future talks to force a shift away from fossil fuels, blamed by U.N. reports for stoking global warming.

But Russia, Japan, Canada, New Zealand and Switzerland objected to setting the stringent range in negotiations about extending the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol, the main plan for fighting global warming that runs to 2012, delegates said.


Uh oh. Guess who isn't happy about this?

"This is voting for the apocalypse," said Stephanie Tunmore of environmental group Greenpeace. "The 25-40 percent range is needed to help avert dangerous climate change" such as more powerful storms, rising seas and melting glaciers, she said.

"Japan is willing to let the typhoons roll in and the water flow onto its coastal land. Switzerland is committed to melt all its remaining glaciers," environmentalists said in a newsletter.


Try as they might, Greenpeace has yet to convince anyone that suicide is our best option.

Maybe they should lead by example?

Your Musical interlude, Part XVI

This week something not even remotely obscure.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Quiet Time

I know you are all missing me terribly, but I've a few things I need to attend to this week....and next week...and probably the week after that. It is all the things that go along with starting a new job. It's an exciting, but tiring time.

One of the reasons I've been able to keep on top of my blogging (at least since I started up again last December) is that I've been un- or under-employed for a period of time. (A longer period of time than I cared for actually.) Starting this fall I will be an adjunct lecturer in both Political Science and Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Those who know me will recognize this as being a pretty good gig for me, and I'm quite excited by it all. It has been awhile since I've taught at the college level, so it sort of feels like the first time again.

In any event, I will not be abandoning The Iconic Midwest, but posting might be a little erratic while I adjust to my new schedule.

So any out there who do not think me a total ass, wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

I Take It Back

I once wrote a post entitled, Why Dogs Are Better Than Cats. Well, this time its the kitties who get on the heroism scoreboard: Cats die after rousing family during fire:

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Two cats woke up a family Monday morning, alerting them to a fire before the cats perished in the blaze.

The fire at 1806 Sheridan Road in West Lafayette engulfed the house, destroying much of it just after 4 a.m. Michael and Nancy Prewett, who lived in the house, escaped without injuries, according to their son, Chris Prewett.

"It was the cats that woke them up," Chris Prewett said. "The cats' activity let them know something was wrong."

Nancy and Michael Prewett could not be reached Monday. Neighbors said they saw Nancy Prewett cradling at least one cat in a blanket on the lawn after the fire was extinguished.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ah, The Good Ol' Days Of 2006

Remember stories like this:

Drought could turn Amazon into desert, researchers warn

The Amazon rainforest -- soon to be called The Artist Formerly Known as the Amazon Rainforest, and then just some weird little symbol -- appears to be undergoing a second year of drought, and that has researchers seriously alarmed. Starting in 2002, scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center simulated drought on a small section of the Amazon and found that after two years, the trees began to die, fall, and release more than two-thirds of their lifetime storage of carbon dioxide.

My God! We are ALL - GOING - TO - DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Or not: Scientists See First Signs of Long-Term Changes in Tropical Rainfall

NASA scientists have detected the first signs that tropical rainfall is on the rise, using the longest and most complete data record available.

The international scientific community assembled a 27-year global record of rainfall from satellite and ground-based instruments. The researchers found the rainiest years between 1979 and 2005 occurred primarily after 2001. The wettest year was 2005, followed by 2004, 2003, 2002 and 1998. The study appeared in the August 1 issue of the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate. The rainfall increase was concentrated over tropical oceans, with a slight decline over land.

"When we look at the whole planet over almost three decades, the total amount of rain falling has changed very little. But in the tropics, where nearly two-thirds of all rain falls, there has been an increase of 5 percent," said lead author Guojun Gu, a research scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.


Let's take a look at the data visually, shall we:



The yellow and red areas are those of increasing rainfall during the period 1979-2005, blue and green decreasing. Of course, we also know that precipitation over much of tropical Africa has been decreasing since the 19th century, long before any impact of anthropogenic global warming was possible.

Additionally, I find it odd that there is no depiction of the rainfall change over land from, for example, 1900-1940 or any other similar length of time so they could establish that we are dealing with unusual variability. We've got the data, why not use it, especially if it will back up your contention. Indeed, as we look at the map we see very little unusual variability anywhere in the world, as only the darkest reds and darkest blues delineate anything unusual. Hmmm....interesting.

And, lo and behold! tropical South America is getting more water, not less. You know what you call "more water?" Whatever its called, it is not "a drought."

When Will It Dawn On Them That There Wasn't A "Problem" In The First Place?

All hail the mighty keg!

Even with the statewide keg-registration policy, local beer vendors say their keg sales haven't declined, and some have reported an increase in sales.

Beginning July 1, kegs purchased in Iowa must be registered at the retailer where they are purchased. Vendors record the buyer's name, address, and drivers' license number and pair it with the identification number stickered to the keg. The files are kept for at least 90 days and made available to law-enforcement officials upon request.

Darin Aisenbrey, the manager of Liquor Downtown, 315 S. Gilbert St., said the keg registration law "is something people really need to know about because if a minor wanders into a keg party, whoever registered the keg is liable."

Iowa City police Sgt. Troy Kelsay said he wouldn't expect the law to negatively affect sales at local establishments as long as they continue using legitimate sales.

The policy is being used to hold people accountable for providing alcohol to minors, not to reduce the number of keg parties, Kelsay said.

City records show no significant changes in these charges.

Okay, let's see if I have this straight. A law is passed that supposedly is meant to crack down on underagre drinkers getting smashed off of draft beer. After law's passage beer keg sales do not decrease, but instead increase. Also, criminal charges related to underage drinking do not increase.

Conclusion? Obviously, the law does not do what they claimed it would do.

What a nice way to waste time and money.

Yes, It Actually Cuts Both Ways

All too often colleges and universities engage in viewpoint discrimination, and usually it is right of center views that get the shaft. But not always:

The Colorado Springs Independent has an article in its latest issue on the free speech zones at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. (UCCS) Last fall, a woman’s advocacy student group called AWARE wanted to reserve a space on campus for a bake sale satirizing the wage gap between male and female workers. The university told the group that since their demonstration was of a political nature, it would have to be held in the campus’ free speech zone. The College Republicans had previously held a Global Warming Beach Party to express opposition to popular theories regarding global warming in the same area outside the free speech zone where AWARE wanted to demonstrate.

To justify the free speech zone, UCCS Professor James Colvin points out that while universities may regulate the time, place, and manner of speech, those restrictions must be viewpoint neutral. But what Colvin leaves out is that in addition to viewpoint neutrality, the regulations must also be reasonable. While banning political speech entirely from a university campus or relegating it to one or two small areas may be viewpoint neutral, depending on how it’s enforced, it is not at all reasonable or constitutional.

This is the sort of garbage you get when universities take it upon themselves to judge student speech. I'm sure if you asked the College Republicans if they thought Global Warming was a political question they would respond "Hell, yeah it's all about politics." That is probably why they had the beach party in the first place. By those standards a wage discrimination bake sale is less political.

Of course, the larger point should be why get the university administration involved at all? All it does is invite charges of capriciousness. Really, the only legitimate role I can see the university playing here is scheduling coordinator.

All the messy "free speech stuff" is just what comes of living in a democratic society. Get used to it already.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Death By Historical Analogy

Historical analogy may just be the death of us all, especially when those engaged in it don't seem to know the actual history involved. Today's case in point is this piece by John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt: The real analogy for Iraq

The civil war that is the most fitting historical reference point to Iraq today is the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). That war revolved around two main sides: one pro-democracy, the other pro-fascist. Neither side was particularly cohesive or well-organized. Both consisted of fractious coalitions of diverse organizations and agendas, many based on personality. It often looked more like a war of fragmented tribes and clans than modern organizations.
The simplistic partitioning of the warring factions into "pro-democracy" and "pro-fascist" camps does extreme violence to the actual historical situation. Yes, the nominal conflict was between the "republican" forces, aligned with what was left of the Spanish government in 1936, and the "nationalist" forces, aligned around the military led proto-fascists. However, to label the "republican" cause as "pro-democracy" is an outright falsehood. Yes, many liberals in 1936 wished to maintain the existing constitutional order, but it is in no way clear that such sentiments were dominant. (As can be seen by the repudiation of the "republic" by such thinkers as Jose Ortega y Gasset, Menendez Pidal, and Perez de Ayala.) To argue the growing tide of anarchist and communist parties in the republic wished to maintain Spanish "democracy" is simple nonsense. (It is telling that Arquilla and Ronfeldt's article never once uses the words "anarchist" or "communist.") The actual political situation in Spain was not a dichotomous choice between democracy and fascism, but a teeming morass of various totalitarian visions and utopian schemes, where those few who supported traditional liberalism or Christian democratic politics were used when useful, discarded when not.

The Spanish Civil War became an arena for great-power competition; only two (America and Japan) remained aloof. Outside governments maneuvered overtly and covertly to reshape the dynamics within each side, including through infiltration and betrayal.
This gives a very warped view of the actual historical events. In truth, the Western democratic powers, namely France and England, were very stand-offish. In the earliest days of the conflict, when the liberal elements in Spain were rallying behind the republic, France and England withheld crucial support. They were so afraid of getting involved against the rising tides of extremism, either attacking fascism or indirectly helping communism, that they did basically nothing. This helped define the battle in Spain as a proxy battle between fascism (with the direct material support of Germany and Italy) and communism (with the less open but still direct support of the U.S.S.R.) Now, it is an open question as to how efficacious French or English help might have been for liberal democratic forces in Spain, but certainly the withholding of open support ensured democracy would not survive.

And in the end, dictatorship won in Spain, partly because its vision of restoring an authoritarian past provided unifying glue for its forces. The pro-democracy side tried to rally around a utopian vision of the future, but it was not well-defined and provoked internal argument far more than solidarity.
This gives you a sense of just how bizarre this piece is. Arquilla and Ronfeldt must believe that no one reads Homage to Catalonia anymore. I'm not sure if this identification of the communist and anarchist projects as being "pro-democracy" is the result of their trying to shoe-horn the Iraq war into this strained analogy, or if it represents the warped ideological vision of the authors. Either way it can only be convincing to people completely ignorant of history. Dictatorship "won" in Spain because, by the second year of the war, the conflict had become a battle of competing dictatorial visions and nothing else.

Over at Power Line they have a similar take on this:

Arquilla and Ronfeldt draw a further policy lesson from the Spanish experience:

[I]t may be advisable to pull back from pressing for an American-style democracy in Iraq. Ending the Spanish Civil War resulted in the installation of a dictatorship for 40 years before Spain eventually transitioned into a liberal democracy.
This is an odd way to describe what happened in Spain. That country's civil war wasn't "ended" by some outside agency, resulting in the "installation" of a dictatorship. The Nationalists won the war, and Franco assumed dictatorial powers, as he had always intended. The truth is that democracy was probably not an alternative for Spain in the 1930s. The Republicans were led largely by Soviet agents and other radicals, and would no more have instituted a democracy, had they won, than Franco.

But why does that Spanish reality of the 1930s tell us what will happen in Iraq? In Iraq, there is a genuine democratic alternative; in fact, however one may evaluate its government, Iraq is already a functioning democracy. Iraq's experiment in self-government may very well fail, but the Spanish experience tells us nothing about that, one way or another.
In too many ways to count, the Iraq-Spanish Civil War comparison seems to be the wrong analogy, at the wrong time, for the wrong ideological reasons.

This is cross-posted at Blue Crab Boulevard.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I've Been Solicited!

Don't worry, my "honor" is still intact.

I've been invited to guest blog over at Blue Crab Boulevard while its owner is on the road. So, some of the riveting content you expect to see here will instead be finding its way over there.

I know I will be dating myself, but I'm starting to feel like Gary Shandling.

Today's Episode In Which I Defend Senator Clinton

Zbigniew Brzezinski, the man who engineered all of the foreign policy "triumphs" of the fabled Carter Administration, has this to say about the qualifications of Senator Hillary Clinton to be President:

Brzezinski, 79, dismissed the notion that Clinton, 59, a New York senator and the wife of former President Bill Clinton, is more seasoned than Obama, 46. ``Being a former first lady doesn't prepare you to be president,'' Brzezinski said.

Wow. What a sexist pig.

Ziggy, I believe the pasture is calling.

Friday, August 24, 2007

"You May Only Doodle As Directed"


Wow. What a dumb society we live in: Arizona School Suspends 13-Year-Old Boy for Drawing Gun

Officials at an Arizona school suspended a 13-year-old boy for sketching what looked like a gun, saying the action posed a threat to his classmates.

The boy's parents said the drawing was a harmless doodle and school officials overreacted.

"The school made him feel like he committed a crime. They are doing more damage than good," said the boy's mother, Paula Mosteller.

The drawing did not show blood, bullets, injuries or target any human, the parents said. And the East Valley Tribune reported that the boy said he did not intend for the picture to be a threat.

Administrators of Payne Junior High in nearby Chandler suspended the boy on Monday for five days but later reduced it to three days.

I'd never make it through school were I a youngster today. I was constantly doodling, and I often drew pictures based on whatever WWII action movie I saw on Saturday afternoon television.

My schoolbooks were filled with drawing like the following:




What scares me is the fact that my drawing skills remain at my 9-year-old level.

Gleaned from Blue Crab Boulevard.

Your Musical Interlude, Part XV

It's a Beatles cover by the Spongetones.

What could be more enticing than that?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A Lessened Impact

Fred Kaplan pens the following: Soldiers pen a jaw-dropping NYT op-ed about the war in Iraq.

After finishing it, however, I feel it is titled incorrectly. It should have been called, "I'm Fred Kaplan and I'm Easily Persuaded by Opinion Pieces I Read That I Already Agreed With".

Next thing you know we will have a piece in Slate by Michael Moore telling us he was really impressed by an Op/Ed criticizing Republicans.

I'm Setting The Over/Under On "Deaths From Rioting" At One


I'm also taking the under. Anger at Malaysia 'Jesus cartoon'

A Malaysian newspaper is facing calls to shut down after it published an image of Jesus holding a cigarette and what appeared to be a can of beer.

Malaysia's Muslim-led government closed two publications last year for carrying controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Now some members of Malaysia's minority religions say they want the same treatment over this latest incident.

Religion is a famously sensitive subject in Malaysia.

So when Tamil-language newspaper, Makkal Osai, published a picture on its front page apparently showing Jesus smoking and drinking it was bound to cause offence.

Christian groups said that although the Jesus of the Bible was a compassionate figure - who turned water into wine, shared a flagon with his disciples at the Last Supper and mixed with tax collectors and prostitutes - action should still be taken.

The paper has since issued an apology, explaining that a graphics editor had mistakenly taken the image from the internet. Most of Malaysia's churches appear to have been appeased.

I've no idea if this image I found is the one causing the little brouhaha, but it could be.

I must say I'm offended. Jesus, Our Lord and Savior would not drink Budweiser.

Newcastle or Guinness maybe, but never a Bud.

P.S. For anyone who would like to link to this story but cannot come up with an appropriate headline I have some suggestions:

What Would Jesus Drink?

or

The Last Nightcap

or

One For The Ascension

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Did Dinosaurs Ever Suffer From The Dreaded High Ankle Sprain?

We may never know: T. Rex could outrun humans

The Tyrannosaurus Rex would have been able to outrun soccer star David Beckham, according to research published Wednesday.
Hell, up until recently *I* could have outrun David Beckham. (People familiar with my waistline will find that funnier than those without such knowledge.)

Previously experts argued the 18-foot-tall T. Rex's bulk would have meant it was a slow-moving scavenger, but new calculations reached using a supercomputer suggest the T. Rex could run up to 18 mph.

So, essentially, Jurassic Park had it about right.

Who needs science when you have Stephen Spielberg?

The Good Old Days

I enjoy seeing where people come from when they visit me here at my humble Midwestern web estate. Today I noticed somebody coming from an old QandO post, so I went to check it out.

And what a trip down memory lane it is. My friends from Stubborn Facts should check it out as it is up their alley.

The Question Isn't "Who Doesn't Read?" But "Who Can't Read?"

The answer to that question seems to be Pat Schroeder.

Who are the 27 percent of people the AP-Ipsos poll found hadn't read a single book this year? Nearly a third of men and a quarter of women fit that category. They tend to be older, less educated, lower income, minorities, from rural areas and less religious.

These are Karl Rove's people?

UPDATE:

Michael vdG has some thoughts on the matter as well.

This Ought To Be Good

It is eye rolling time. Book Chief: Conservatives Want Slogans

Liberals read more books than conservatives. The head of the book publishing industry's trade group says she knows why—and there's little flattering about conservative readers in her explanation.
Oh no. Who can she be? Someone lofty and far above us I'm sure.

"The Karl Roves of the world have built a generation that just wants a couple slogans: 'No, don't raise my taxes, no new taxes,'" Pat Schroeder, president of the American Association of Publishers, said in a recent interview. "It's pretty hard to write a book saying, 'No new taxes, no new taxes, no new taxes' on every page."

Schroeder, who as a Colorado Democrat was once one of Congress' most liberal House members, was responding to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll that found people who consider themselves liberals are more prodigious book readers than conservatives.

Can't get more unbiased than being called "most liberal" by the AP.

She said liberals tend to be policy wonks who "can't say anything in less than paragraphs. We really want the whole picture, want to peel the onion."

Funny, that doesn't seem to be on display at the DK.
The book publishing industry is predominantly liberal

You don't say? I thought they chose Pat Schroeder to represent them because they liked someone who could emote.
The AP-Ipsos poll found 22 percent of liberals and moderates said they had not read a book within the past year, compared with 34 percent of conservatives.

Is that exactly 22 percent of liberals and 22 percent of moderates, or is that 22 percent of liberals and moderates lumped together? It does matter you know.
Among those who had read at least one book, liberals typically read nine books in the year, with half reading more than that and half less. Conservatives typically read eight, moderates five.

Nine vs. eight? A shocking difference I'm sure. But were we to eliminate new age self-help books how much would the liberal tally drop? By half or so?
By slightly wider margins, Democrats tended to read more books than Republicans and independents. There were no differences by political party in the percentage of those who said they had not read at least one book.

Once again is that Republicans and independents lumped together or not?

Sheesh! Who is writing this stuff, Lewis Carroll?

UPDATE:

For those who do not know, in another life I managed a little independent bookshop in northwest Washington, D.C. Our clientele was almost entirely liberal. I'd estimate 85% were liberal, 10% were moderates, and 5% were conservative, and election returns back me up on this fact. So, I know what well educated, well-to-do liberals read, and it isn't what they are telling the AP they are reading.

Here is how it broke down roughly:

The number one sellers were biography, especially whatever was needed as impressive coffee table eye candy (McCullough's biography John Adams was all the rage I remember). But on a day in day out basis it was the slightly trashy, gossipy ones that kept them coming back. This made up about 20% of our sales.

Number two was fiction. Novels that won prizes (National Book Award, Booker etc.) were highly prized. But mysteries and crime novels sold best. 15%.

Number three was history. It was rare that there was a big history seller, at least nothing like the biographies, but history always sold well. 15%

Number four was what we called "Health and Family," so this would cover everything from books on cancer to baby rearing, or self-help to those Oprah weepers. This accounted for 12%, most of that being self-help.

Number five was travel books. Travel essays made up the biggest part of this area. 10%

Number six was cookbooks. 8%

Number seven was large format books, art books, gardens etc. 7%

Number eight would have been books on religion. In the five years I worked there we never regularly stocked the Bible and special ordered maybe two or three. But we had a crap load of books on Buddhism. 5%

Number nine was science books. 3%

Everything else in the store, e.g. dictionaries, books-on-tape and CD, poetry, drama, humor, political books (really) etc., accounted for the remaining 5%.

According to the AP survey here is what Americans say they are reading:

The Bible or other religious text ....... 64
Popular fiction .................................. 54
Non-fiction history book ................... 54
Non-fiction biography ....................... 48
Mystery or thriller novel.................... 48
Romance novel ................................ 21

No other genre of book got over 3%.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Day Kos Jumped The Shark

Kos today takes this statement:

It is nearly impossible to derive the orthodox understanding of the Trinity, and other teachings which were disputed in the early Christian community, from Scripture alone without recourse to Church teachings. Sincerely motivated Christians studying the same texts have disagreed on the fundamentals of the faith, thereby dividing not only Protestants from Catholics, but also particular Protestant denominations from each other. Post-Reformation history does not reflect the unity and harmony of the "one flock" instituted by Christ [...], but rather a scandalous series of divisions and new denominations, including some that can hardly be called Christian. Yet Christ would not have demanded unity without providing the necessary leadership to maintain it. The same Catholic Church which infallibly determined the canon of the Bible must be trusted to interpret her handiwork; the alternative is to trust individual Christians, burdened with, as Calvin termed it, their "utterly depraved" minds, to overcome their tendency to rationalize, their selfish desires, and other effects of original sin. The choice is between Catholicism's authoritative Magisterium and subjective interpretation which leads to anarchy and heresy.

And then he tells us what he thinks it means:

Summary: Catholicism is infallible, all other religions are burdened with utterly depraved minds subject to subjective interpretations leading to anarchy and heresy.

What a moron.

This idiot became the voice of a generation how exactly?

Yet More Rank Stupidity

It had to be coming.

No one storm says anything about climate change; but nevertheless, climate change may affect weather in the aggregate. ... bearing in mind the scientific expectation that global warming ought to intensify the average hurricane (by how much remains hotly disputed). How does Dean fit into that ongoing scientific argument? Well, first of all, Dean now takes its rank among the top ten most intense Atlantic hurricanes. If you look at that list you’ll see that six of the strongest (Wilma, Rita, Katrina, Mitch, Dean, and Ivan) have been in the past ten years. That’s not the kind of statistic that’s easy to overlook. According to these data we are getting stronger storms in the Atlantic basin now than we ever have before.


Bullshit. Complete intellectually dishonest bullshit.

The truth is we only have complete data on intensity from the late 1960's. For example, look at the data for 1960. Of the seven tropical storms that season only three have recorded pressure readings, and one of those seems suspect to me. (Category 5 hurricane Ethel only had a pressure of 981mb?)

Or check out 1950, where only three of 13 storms have pressure readings. This includes no pressure reading on the massive category 5 storm Dog.




How do we know this wasn't one of the strongest storms ever? We don't. Our data isn't good enough.

Unfortunately, this type of unscientific demagoguery is par for the course with the GW hysteria crowd.

UPDATE:

More duplicity:

Measuring systems weren't as good in earlier eras, you see -- a fact that makes our records somewhat impeachable. A "record" is only what's recorded, after all. And so skeptics will inevitably quibble with our imperfect data and challenge it. There might well have been a storm much stronger than Dean 200 years ago -- we just don't know.

Nevertheless, if you look at the data we have, Dean fits into a very troubling pattern and context.

No it doesn't, because without the data you cannot make any such generalization, unless you only want to make a claim about the last couple of decades, in which case you should insert the needed caveats. Scientifically speaking it is not optional. (Science is a bitch that way.) You cannot claim a pattern because, for example, you do not know if the storms during the 1920's or 1930's were stronger than we have seen the last 20 years.

If science is anything it is a question of methods. You cannot throw out the rules for data collection and sample size because it suits your ideological needs.

UPDATE X2:

What happens when you don't attempt to find behind the fact that we do not have pressure readings for earlier storms and just look at storms by their Cat rating in the best track storm data?

Category 5 Hurricanes:

1946-2007: 26
1946-1976: 12
1977-2007: 14

So it is 12 vs. 14. Do you know what we call that? It is called "not a pattern."

UPDATE X3:

It is also duplicitous to claim anything special about the last few years (because of the problems with sample size etc.). For example during the last 15 years (1993-2007) we have had eight Cat 5 storms. That is a lot. We are also told it is unprecedented.

It isn't. From 1955-1969 we had (hold onto your hats) eight Cat 5 storms.

How can that be?

Lousiana Democrats = Anti-Catholic Bigots?

It seems it is an open question.

Seems like this wouldn't fly in Louisiana, but that's just me I suppose.

UPDATE:

I should have known the bigotry would confine itself to Louisiana. The seething hatemongers of the DK just couldn't control themselves.

The "New" American Left, anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic. I wonder what part of the KKK belief system they will ultimately reject?

Sappy Emotionalism Passed Off As "Critical Thinking"

I hate crapola like this: Bush Administration Escalates War Against Middle Income Children’s Health Insurance

Yeah, yeah. Because God knows, the more dead American children there are the better George Bush likes it.

What a bunch of garbage.

Here is what the original NY Times articles says:

The Bush administration, continuing its fight to stop states from expanding the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, has adopted new standards that would make it much more difficult for New York, California and others to extend coverage to children in middle-income families.

Administration officials outlined the new standards in a letter sent to state health officials on Friday evening, in the middle of a month-long Congressional recess. In interviews, they said the changes were aimed at returning the Children’s Health Insurance Program to its original focus on low-income children and to make sure the program did not become a substitute for private health coverage.

...

The poverty level for a family of four is $20,650 in annual income. New York now covers children in families with income up to 250 percent
[$51,625] of the poverty level. The State Legislature has passed a bill that would raise the limit to 400 percent of the poverty level — $82,600 for a family of four — but the change is subject to federal approval.

California wants to increase its income limit to 300 percent of the poverty level, from 250 percent [$51,625]. Pennsylvania recently raised its limit to 300 [$61,950] percent, from 200 percent [$41,300]. New Jersey has had a limit of 350 [$72,275] percent for more than five years.

...

In the letter sent to state health officials about 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dennis G. Smith, the director of the federal Center for Medicaid and State Operations, set a high standard for states that want to raise eligibility for the child health program above 250 [$51,625] percent of the poverty level.

Before making such a change, Mr. Smith said, states must demonstrate that they have “enrolled at least 95 percent of children in the state below 200 percent of the federal poverty level” who are eligible for either Medicaid or the child health program.

In other words, the Bush administration wants the program to serve actual low-income people before it is allowed to become a middle class entitlement.

The bastards!

Now, one can quibble about the income cut off levels, of just what the scope of any middle class health care subsidy should be, or if special provisions should be made for areas with unusually expensive cost-of-living/housing costs...but none of that justifies the hysteria on display at TMV.

The "argument" behind such a view is, to all intents and purposes, the same as claiming "There is no morally legitimate way to argue against my position." Any such claim is garbage.

UPDATE:

Just for giggles I looked at the health insurance plans offered by Blue Cross in California. For a family of four living in the Haight there were ten plans offered with monthly premiums of between $209 to $384. Of course, health insurance needs vary from family to family, but it doesn't seem impossible to get affordable coverage in principle, especially for a family bringing home between $4000 and $5000 a month income. I'm not saying some folks might not need help with prescription drug costs or catastrophic care, but dealing with such costs is not the point of the SCHIP program.

Monday, August 20, 2007

I'm A Blogging Snob

I went over to this site to read about an FEC complaint a liberal blogger filed against Fred "Is I Is Or Is I Isn't" Thompson. However, try as I might, I simply can no longer take any blogger seriously who uses that template! It is one of the basic blogger templates, and it was even the Iconic Midwest template for a few months back in 2004-05.

I know. I know. It shouldn't matter, but oddly it does. It is a subconscious thing that I have become conscious of, and I certainly wonder how many other sites I've rejected as pablum because of an outdated appearance. I should be above the whole "image over substance" thing, but I'm not.

Of course, all this could be avoided if bloggers would just update the look of their site every once and awhile.

The New Republic And The "In-Crowd"

Pajamas Media has a blow-by-blow account written by Richard Miniter of how The New Republic found themselves in yet another scandal involving creative fiction presented as factual reportage. PM has done an excellent job and no one should really have a question about how the Scott Thomas Beauchamp incident has played out to this point. Since TNR has begun to "lawyer-up" on the subject we probably haven't heard the last word on it yet.

However, I'm beginning to feel the question as to why this has happened to TNR has been a bit overlooked. Miniter seems to see it as a simple question of a failed fact checking system and the (misguided) privilege that goes with being a New Republic "insider."

Let’s go into the fact-checking department. Elspeth Reeve was one of three fact-checkers at the magazine.

Did she fact-check her husband’s articles? While it is hard to believe that an established magazine would make such an elementary error, so far no one at the magazine has bothered to address the question. That’s an interesting omission.

Even if Reeve did not double-check her husband’s reporting, she worked alongside the other two fact-checkers and often shared a take-out lunch with them in the magazine’s conference room. They liked her. Would they really treat Beauchamp’s pieces like an article that floated in from a stranger?

At any publication, staff writing is less closely scrutinized than freelance material. Not coincidentally, virtually all of the journalistic fabrication scandals of the past 30 years—from The Washington Post’s Janet Cooke to The New York Times’ Jayson Blair—involved staff writers. Insiders. Trusted people.

More pointedly, the last two sets of New Republic journalistic scandals—Ruth Shalit and Stephen Glass—were perpetrated by staffers.

Scott Thomas Beauchamp was not a staffer; he may not have ever stepped foot in The New Republic’s two-floor rabbit warren of offices. But he was an insider, through his wife.

Perhaps the fact-checkers believed that they didn’t have to check his work thoroughly because they knew and trusted his wife, who they affectionately called “Ellie.”

The New Republic’s fact-checking department may be structurally flawed. At the magazines with the best reputation for fact-checking, The New Yorker and Reader’s Digest, fact-checking is a career. At The New Republic, it is an entry level job known as “reporter-researcher.” It is a stepping stone, a dues-paying drudgery endured so that one can become a full-time writer. Even the job title is revealing. The “reporter” part comes first. Often the fact-checkers are busy writing items of their own for The Plank, the magazine’s weblog, or the magazine itself. (Elspeth Reeve has written a number of pieces; one was about Bob Tyrell’s book party at Morton’s.) So it would not have taken much for one of the fact-checkers to skim, not scrutinize, Beauchamp’s “Baghdad Diarist” pieces.

Maybe they feel sorry for Reeve because they are partly to blame. Beauchamp published three pieces over a six-month period. Odds are each of the fact-checkers had a hand in one of them.

Then there is the role of the magazine’s editor. Foer had met Beauchamp, shook his hand and talked to him, according to McGee.

That’s the real reason why Foer insisted on correcting his quote in The New York Times about knowing that Beauchamp was a soldier with “near certainty” to “absolute certainty.” Some of the blogosphere’s speculations look overheated once we know that Foer actually met Beauchamp.

Did the fact-checkers also give Beauchamp a pass because they knew their boss, Foer, met and liked the charming young soldier? Is Foer fighting back so hard because he just can’t believe he too was suckered?

Once again, this tackles how it went down quite well, but not why. What was so attractive about Beauchamp? Why would basic journalistic procedure be ignored, and why would Foer put his reputation on the line before he could possibly have been sure of the facts of the matter? It couldn't have been the quality of Beauchamp's writing, which on the scale of literary greatness lands somewhere short of "puerile". (Tom Wolfe he isn't.)

So, what was it?

If I had to guess, and to offer any sort of answer to the question I will have to, I would say the editorial staff at The New Republic viewed Beauchamp as a way to re-establish their liberal bona fides. TNR has taken a beating for years from the netroot community over their relative support for the Iraq war. The Daily Kos' broadsides are fairly typical, such as TNR and why it's not on our side or So who says the New Republic is liberal? The DK post TNR's defection to the Right is now complete offers the netroot assessment on The New Republic in a nutshell:

TNR and its enablers are feeling the heat of their own irrelevance and this is how they fight it -- by undermining the progressive movement. Zengerle has made common cause with the wingnutosphere, using the laughable "kosola" frame they created and emailing his "scoops" to them for links. This is what the once-proud New Republic has evolved into -- just another cog of the Vast RIGHT Wing Conspiracy.

If you still hold a subscription to that magazine, it really is time to call it quits. If you see it in a magazine rack, you might as well move it behind the National Review or even NewsMax, since that's who they want to be associated with these days.

It was this background which helps explain the actions of TNR. As what constitutes the liberal "establishment" has shifted (and shifted it has), TNR was being viewed as something of a journalistic dinosaur and a traitorous one at that ("Benedict Arnosaurus"). But (I'm guessing an editorial meeting argued), if they could provide plentiful anti-war fodder with lurid details, TNR could push back against attempts to marginalize them. If the netroots really defined the only acceptable way to be a liberal, a position TNR seems more and more likely to go along with these days, then they will do what is necessary to ingratiate themselves to the new powers that be.

At root the Beauchamp affair looks less like the result of duplicitous reportage ala Stephen Glass, and more like the result of a massive loss of confidence. The fault here lies less with Beauchamp than with the TNR editorial staff as a whole. Outlandish claims were accepted without fact checking because they were seen to aid the magazine in their attempts to gain/maintain prestige and to curry favor with specific ideological elements. It seems TNR felt they needed Beauchamp so badly that they were willing to take the risk that he wasn't spinning tall tales even after serious questions were raised.

It wouldn't all seem quite so pathetic if it wasn't exactly the sort of thing played out in high school cafeterias all over the country year after year. How many kids do something in an attempt to gain access to the popular crowd that only results in making themselves look foolish? Well, you can add the editors of The New Republic to that sorry list.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

What Broken Sound Looks Like

It's "gotta share" time.



When an airplane travels at a speed faster than sound, density waves of sound emitted by the plane cannot precede the plane, and so accumulate in a cone behind the plane. When this shock wave passes, a listener hears all at once the sound emitted over a longer period: a sonic boom. As a plane accelerates to just break the sound barrier, however, an unusual cloud might form. The origin of this cloud is still debated. A leading theory is that a drop in air pressure at the plane described by the Prandtl-Glauert Singularity occurs so that moist air condenses there to form water droplets. Above, an F/A-18 Hornet was photographed just as it broke the sound barrier.

I don't care what you call it, but it sure is cool.

Drug Addled Has-Been Hates U.S.

Now this really hurts: Ex-soccer star Maradona tells Chavez he hates U.S.

Former Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona on Sunday said he hates the United States "with all my strength" during an appearance on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's weekly television show.

The leftist soccer legend, like the fiercely anti-U.S. Chavez, is a close ally of Cuba's Fidel Castro.

"I believe in Chavez, I am Chavista ... . Everything Fidel does, everything Chavez does for me is the best (that can be done)," Maradona said, sitting with Chavez on the set of the president's Sunday talk show.

"I hate everything that comes from the United States. I hate it with all my strength," he added to thunderous applause and cheering from the hundreds of Chavez supporters gathered in an auditorium for the show.

Strong words from a man whose biggest claim to fame is that he cheated in order to win the World Cup.

Reuters really knows how to find real news, don't they?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

This Entertained Me...

...so I'm stealing quoting it here: Things Not To Say

I went over to a friend's house the other day, where we ate a bunch of pizza and then played 120 minutes of Power Grid. I knew most of the players, but two of them were a rather prim couple I had never met before.

After the game was over, I opened one of the pizza boxes and, discovering that there were still a few slices left, grabbed one.

"Hey, I'll throw that in the microwave for you," said my friend.

"No, thanks," I said, and then--because it's my standard line in situations like that--added, "I like my pizza the way I like my women."

I didn't have a punchline in mind when I said it. But, having set the joke up, I had no choice but to follow through. "Cold ... and a few hours old."

Update: Okay, so normally I wouldn't post something like this here, as necropedophilia jokes rarely go over well with my typically readership. (Hi Mom! It gets worse!) But I got such a torrent of amazing alternate punchlines when I posted this elsewhere, I had no choice but to share.

"Bought on a street corner" (Randombit)
"Patted down with a napkin and folded in half" (Umrain)
"Shared with 3 friends" (Newbornstranger)
"Available by telephone and delivered by a pimply stoner in an AMC Pacer" (Walter)
"So hot the top slides off." (Phil S)
"Hand tossed." (Flaunted)
"Liberally endowed with Italian Sausage." (Migelikor)
"Stacked in a corner of my fridge the following morning." (pyrimyd)
"Fawned over by nerds" (Gee)
"Free if they don't come within 30 minutes or less" (Melvin)


Insert your own punchline here.

An Open Question...A Sadly Open Question.

The question is: Does an American have a right to make a living? It turns out the answer is kinda "no." American Dream on a Spike

Alan Merrifield doesn't believe in pesticides. He thinks they're dangerous, ineffective and bad for the environment. In any case, he doesn't deal with bugs. He helps people keep common pests like raccoons and birds away from their homes, using only traps, screens and spikes.

Nonetheless, state bureaucrats insist that the 68-year-old Merrifield — who already holds five state pest control licenses — needs another license, called a "Branch 2 License," before he can install spikes on buildings to keep pigeons away. To get such a license, one must spend two years learning how to handle pesticides — pesticides Merrifield doesn't use — and then take a 200-question multiple-choice examination … which does not contain a single question about spikes or pigeons.

It gets worse. The law only applies to people who work on pigeon, mouse or rat problems. In other words, someone who installs spikes on a bridge to keep seagulls from roosting there doesn't need a Branch 2 License. But install the same spikes on the same bridge to keep pigeons away, and you do. The penalties can amount to fines of $1,000 per violation and even jail time.

It turns out the licensing laws in this case were put in place by powerful private interests to protect their industry from competition. But certainly the state cannot act in such a manner legally, right? Wrong.

Unfortunately, the Merrifield case is an all too typical example of the abuse of occupational licensing to prevent fair economic competition. Such laws often bar honest Americans from earning a living and providing consumers with useful goods and services. As a result, the entrepreneurial spirit at the heart of American enterprise suffers, and the rule of law is transformed into a game where powerful companies can exploit legislatures for their own benefit.

As U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens noted 20 years ago, "private parties have used licensing to advance their own interests in restraining competition at the expense of the public interest."

Alas, thanks to the "rational basis scrutiny" that courts have applied to economic regulations, judges presume strongly against entrepreneurs like Merrifield. Plaintiffs are required to prove that there is no conceivable ground on which the law could be considered rational — that is, to prove a negative — before a court will protect their constitutionally protected right to earn a living.

The rational basis test was devised in a series of cases in the 1930s. The right to earn a living had been considered a fundamental part of the common law for more than three centuries before that — England's Chief Justice Edward Coke wrote in 1615 that "at the common law, no man could be prohibited from working in any lawful trade, for the law abhors idleness, the mother of all evil." But in the 1934 case of Nebbia v. New York, the justices held that from then on, courts would presume that economic regulations are constitutional except in the most extreme cases.

I'm no libertarian. I have no problem with the state regulating workplaces for health and safety concerns, but this situation touches on something more fundamental than that. The desire to protect vested interests from the perils that can come from innovation and entrepreneurship can do nothing but lead to an ossified society. If we are willing to "protect" the status quo of the pest control industry, what does that say about how far we would go in any other industry? Will the day come when the Microsoft empire will need to be "protected" from competition and the marketplace? (And some would say that day has come and gone already.)

It is a bad road to even begin to journey down.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Having An Ideological Axe To Grind Doesn't Mean You Have To Be An Idiot

Winds of Change noted the following:


I saw the news today about the deaths of three rescuers in the Utah coal mine, and after the initial burst of sorrow for them and their families I thought about the incredible sense of commitment miners must have to each other - much like soldiers, firefighters and LEO's. It's something that's there within our society, but is too often buried - our commitment to protect and rescue each other. I'd read about the instability in the mine - either seismic or due to roof failure, I certainly don't know - and I'd thought about the risks those teams of workers were taking for their colleagues who they may not have even known personally. I wish I'd been wrong about the risks they were taking...

My next thought was to wonder when the first article or blog post blaming this on Bush would come out...and I wish I'd been wrong about that as well...

At 10:50 this morning, let me bring you the Liberal Avenger:

Let’s keep in mind that this accident was completely preventable, but efforts to regulate mine safety in the wake of several mine tragedies in 2006 were derailed by corruption and an anti-regulatory mindset within the Republican party. President Bush signaled his unwillingness to regulate the coal mining industry when he appointed Richard Stickler as the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety...

So in the wake of series of fatal mining disasters, the Bush administration decided to circumvent the nomination process in order to put a former mining executive in charge of enforcing mining regulations. Is anyone surprised by the result?

To which Winds of Change responded with the following graph:



Now, the point is pretty simple here. Whatever you do, never try to shoehorn every single situation that arises into your prejudices. The only people for whom the world works that way are crazy people or folks that have been lobotomized, and that isn't because they have reality nailed.

This doesn't mean you cannot have your own personal dispositions on matters, but you should always look at the available evidence before making a sweeping claim that is so demonstrably false that you cannot help but look like a fool. When it comes to the Bush administration it isn't as if there was some sort of dearth of things to castigate them for legitimately. However, supposedly rational people are so wedded to the "It's All Bush's Fault" storyline that they don't care what kind of moron it makes them out to be.

Happy Milestone To Stubborn Facts!

The guys over at Stubborn Facts have just hit 100,000 visits, which is great news as they are a best-of-breed blog if ever there was one. If SCOTUSblog is the law and legal affairs blog you feel you should read, Stubborn Facts is the law and legal affairs blog you want to read. That they throw in politics, current events, and the oh so lovely Mercedes is just gravy. (Hmmmmm....gravy.)

If you don't have Stubborn Facts as an everyday read already, now is the time to pick up on it while it is still near the ground floor.

Your Musical Interlude, Part XIV

It's short. It's catchy. It's snappy. It's Myracle Brah.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Light Dawning?

Saw this from Jeb Koogler at the Moderate Voice and I thought "Hmmmm....": Getting Real About Chavez

For a long time, I’ve defended Hugo Chavez. I thought that he was fighting a worthy battle against greed and corruption, against years of foreign domination and cronyism. I thought he was trying to improve the lives of poor people, while establishing a strong economy, an independent and self-respecting nation, and a vibrant democracy.

But now, after watching events unfold in the past few months, I’m ready to admit that I was mistaken.

Like many of those who lean left, I figured that Chavez’s megalomaniacal governing qualities were a bit unnerving, but not anything serious to be worried about. In retrospect, I realize that I was willing to overlook his authoritarian tendencies because of one main thing: his avowed commitment to social justice issues and his dedication to ending poverty.

Recently, however, I’ve changed my mind in a major way. Although I have tried to remain optimistic, Chavez’s actions in the past few months clearly indicate that he is set on becoming a dictator. Perhaps a dictator dedicated to the poor, but a dictator nonetheless.

It has always surprised me that Democrats and other liberals in this country should have been so callous about the erosion of fundamental political rights that have been endemic to the Chavez regime, up to and including the doing away with the idea of Democratic rule.

"Oh, but Chavez cares for the poor! The poor! The poor poor! You are a beast to worry about things like rights when there are poor people!"

It really makes one worry about how committed the "liberal" wing of American politics is to our own set of fundamental rights, despite all the protestations they make about Bush and company. Evidently, the only problem they have with Bush is the identity of the people they feel are getting screwed over. It is a scary thought since it is hard to tell sometimes what is rhetoric and what is unhinged lunacy in that bunch. Obviously, I have always felt that anyone kow-towing to or making excuses for Chavez had the intellect of a rutabaga, but it is nice to see at least once person backing away from the ledge in fit of common sense.

Koogler continues:

Unfortunately, many of us on the left have been silent on this issue for far too long. While we have been quick to criticize our own administration and other foreign governments (think Vladimir Putin) for undemocratic policies, there has been a tendency to overlook the authoritarian governing styles of leftist regimes like that of Venezuela. For some reason — probably because these leaders profess the dogma of economic equality and social reform — many of us on the left have been quick to defend these liberal autocrats.

But it’s time to wake up and get our priorities straight. We should not be blind to what is going on in Venezuela. We can no longer forgive Chavez’s dictatorial tendencies just because of his avowed commitment to the country’s poor. Indeed, it is a grave mistake to overlook tyranny or authoritarianism even when it is couched in the rhetoric of liberal reform and social justice. Ultimately, while Chavez’s vision of an end to poverty and the creation of a more equitable society is an honorable and an important one, his way of achieving these goals is not. Upholding democracy is infinitely more important than any of these other aims.

The worst troubles and the worst human rights abuses occur not while democratic institutions are still alive and kicking, but after they have been gutted or done away with all together. The problem with Germany in the 1930's wasn't just that they elected Hitler, it was that they allowed him to dismantle any mechanism for removing him from power. At first such things can be done with the help of the popular will, but eventually the regime holds onto power by thuggery and murder. That is the reason you let the opposition speak. That is the reason the opposition has rights that may not be stripped from them. That is why the forms of democratic society are important and inviolable.

That is why any supporter of Chavez should be shunned as being nothing better than a brownshirt themselves.

Mystery Solved....Sort Of

Someone has stepped forward and claimed to be the mystery Poe admirer who leaves roses and a bottle of cognac on Edgar Allan Poe's grave every January.

However, questions remain: Mystery of 'Poe Toaster' revealed

For decades, a mysterious figure dressed in black, his features cloaked by a wide-brimmed hat and scarf, crept into a churchyard to lay three roses and a bottle of cognac at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe.

Now, a 92-year-old man who led the fight to preserve the historic site says the visitor was his creation.

"We did it, myself and my tour guides," said Sam Porpora. "It was a promotional idea. We made it up, never dreaming it would go worldwide."

Porpora is an energetic, dapper fellow in a newsboy cap and a checked suit with a bolo tie. He's got a twinkle in his eye and a mischievous smile, and he tells his tale in the rhythms of a natural-born storyteller.

No one has ever claimed ownership of the legend. So why is Porpora coming forward now?

"I really can't tell you," Porpora answered. "I love Poe. I love talking about Poe. I had a lot to do with making Poe a universal figure. I'm doing it because of my love for the story."

Porpora's belief that he resurrected the international fame of Poe, that master of mystery and melancholia, is questioned by some Poe scholars. But they do credit Porpora, a former advertising executive, with rescuing the cemetery at Westminster Presbyterian Church where the writer is buried.

"I don't know what to say," said Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House in Baltimore, who has nurtured for years the legend of the so-called Poe Toaster. Confronted with Porpora's assertion that the whole thing is a hoax, Jerome reacted like a man who's been punched in the stomach by his beloved grandfather. He's sad. He feels betrayed. But he's reluctant to punch back.

"He's like a mentor to me," Jerome said of Porpora. "And I can tell you that if it weren't for him, Westminster Hall may not be there. But to say the toaster is a promotional hoax, well, all I can say is that's just not so."

...

Members of the Poe Society insist they recall members of the old congregation -- all now dead -- talking about the Poe toaster before Porpora says he made it up. Stories since the 1970s refer to older newspaper accounts about the visitor. Jerome found a 1950 newspaper clipping from The (Baltimore) Evening Sun that mentions "an anonymous citizen who creeps in annually to place an empty bottle (of excellent label)" against the gravestone.

Porpora's account isn't consistent. He said he invented the stranger in an interview with a reporter in 1967, but the story to which he refers appeared in 1976. Shortly afterward, the vigils and the yearly chronicles of the stranger's visits began. During the same interview, Porpora said both that he made the story up and that one of his tour guides went through a pantomime of dressing up, sneaking into the cemetery and laying the tribute on the grave.

Porpora acknowledges that someone has since "become" the Poe toaster.

"For us, it was a one-time thing. If I could have brought Edgar Allen Poe back to life, I would have -- that would have been the biggest promotion of all," he said. "But who would have thought people would jump on it the way they did?"

Jerome said the vigils will continue.

"Next January 19, I'm going to keep the vigil -- same as I've always done," he said. "Either he shows or he doesn't show. Either others join me or they don't. My guess is, this will not affect anything."

It is sort of funny that folks are so put out by the idea that the admirer might be a rather mundane affair. What did they think the answer to the mystery was? Some spectral image from a Poe short story rising up, knocking off a Baltimore liquor store, hitting the flower shop, and then visiting the cemetery before a chill wind blows it away as the winter dawn approaches? The answer was always gonna be some guy with a little too much time on his hands.

I'll admit, the need for wonder in our lives can be very strong, so it can be sad when yet another exotic mystery turns out to be rather pedestrian in nature. So, if you feel the need, just tell yourself that this mystery has not been solved at all, and that the true story must involve a conspiracy involving the Templars or something.

I think it is time for a little Poe:

Fill with mingled cream and amber,
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chamber of my brain -
Quaintest thoughts - queerist fancies
Come to life and fade away;
What care I how time advances?
I am drinking ale today.

Who Would Have Thought It Possible?

Oh yeah, anyone with functioning brain cells: Venezuela head outlines changes

President Hugo Chavez has presented his plans for changes to Venezuela's constitution, including an end to the presidential term limits.

Current rules mean Mr Chavez is unable to seek re-election and will have to step down when his term ends in 2012.

His plans, to be put to a national referendum, also increase presidential control over municipalities and states.

Mr Chavez has rejected criticism of the proposals, saying they will bring "new horizons for the new era".

Some of the main changes include:

  • Removing term limits for the presidency, and extending the term of office from six years to seven
  • Bringing in a maximum six-hour working day
  • Increasing presidential control over the central bank
  • Strengthening state economic powers, allowing the government to control assets of private companies before a court grants an expropriation order.

As long predicted by outsider observers who aren't blind idiots, representative democracy that respects and defends the rights of minorities is over in Venezuela. In its place with find a ruler of a mob destined to create a one party state by sheer Will to Power.

You know, just like Hitler.

Of course Sean Penn is alright with that as Chavez is his kinda Hitler.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Matter Of Desperate Sociological Importance...

...dealt with on another blog of mine.

Making Ledbetter Better

Simon over at Stubborn Facts has a nice piece up on the efforts to amend the Ledbetter "Fair Pay" Act in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling on its staute of limitation provisions.

If Congress passes bad law, you're going to get bad results. In which case, Congress ought to change the law. Which, of course, it's moving to do, and the WaPo isn't happy about that either. I share the WaPo's basic concern, but it couches that concern in language that strikes me as plain weird.

[T]he House bill would all but eliminate a statute of limitations, which was not Congress's original intent....

Even if the original intent of the legislature in passing a piece of legislation governs a court in interpreting a law, it most certainly doesn't bind a subsequent Congress amending that law.

Simon calls the WaPo reasoning "weird" while I opted for "bizarre." Either way it makes for interesting reading. The WaPo editorial is here.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Jesus H Christ

This is what passes for informed opinion in this day and age? Really?

This is Kos on Rose:

ROSE: I want to talk more about you but crumbling infrastructure could be held... A lot of people you could hold responsible for that, probably not Karl Rove.

MOULITSAS: Well, he’s somebody who was a chief driver of George Bush’s tax cuts. And if you don’t invest in this country, of course you’re going to have crumbling infrastructure. You don’t have money to pay for the nation’s priorities, you’re going to have massive deficits, massive debt and bridges collapses in places like Minneapolis.

ROSE: So the bridge would have failed if we had not been engaged in the war and didn’t have the massive deficit? They would have rebuilt it and done these other things?

MOULITSAS: You invest the money in our nation’s infrastructure, then you’ll have a situation where these sort of incidents are going to happen less. Look at Katrina, the levies were supposed to be funded at a certain level and the Bush administration didn’t fund the army corps of engineers to the level they had had requested to fix the levees and make sure they could withstand a Katrina hurricane.

ROSE: Are you convinced for sake of this conversation that the Clinton administration would have done that?

MOULITSAS: Absolutely.

There was an old headline by The Onion that read something like "Forklift Operator To Address Nation at 11:34AM on Limbaugh Program."

Sounds about right.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sky Watch Redux

Last night's meteor watch was a little frustrating. Oh, the sky cleared nicely after midnight and the rate of meteors was the best yet, but there were few really good ones and the ones that did show came in fits and starts. I watched until about 2:00AM or so and saw a peak rate of about 50-55 per hour. The dark of the sky was nice and I saw some in parts of the sky that would have been too bright given any sort of moon, but they were all quick and not many were bright at all.

We are supposed to have storms in the area tonight, so that might but an end to my Perseid viewing at least until tomorrow night.

Rove Leaving

My response to the news that Karl Rove was hitting the trail mirrors this classic exchange from Cheers:

Norm: Will this in any way affect the price of beer?

Sam: No.

Norm: Then what do I care?

Rove was over-praised, over-hyped, over-vilified, and over-feared.

Now he is just over.

Bartender!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Perseids

Lots of folks are finding me looking for meteor shower info....so...here it is:

Where: In the sky of course, but the North Eastern sky should be where the greatest number originate.

When: Tonight should be the peak, but they can be off 24-36 hours on that. So, if you don't have good clear conditions tonight you should still be able to see a good number on Monday and Tuesday nights. The lead in nights have been pretty good, with 15-20 per hour on Friday evening, and 20-25 per hour last night.

The best hours are usually between 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning, but really anytime after midnight and until dawn should offer good viewing.

Type: A lot of these meteors have been quick moving and fairly faint, so folks near large light pollution sources will see fewer. Every 1 out of 7 or 8 was slower and brighter on average, so if we get near the 100 per hour peak tonight (or tomorrow) you can still expect to see 12-15 brilliant meteors in most every area. (Even a downtown Chicago roof deck.)

Have fun folks.

You Can Understand My Confusion

When I saw this headline:


Giuliani: Petty, Vindictive, Egotist

I was sure it meant the DK was welcoming Rudy into their fold.

It was a natural reaction.

Last Night's Sky Watch

We had some big thunderstorms roll through the area last evening right after sunset, which did wonders for the viewing conditions as the haze that had hung around for the last couple of weeks was much dissipated. It was actually quite a beautiful night to be looking at the night sky. The lightning from the receding storms would occasionally pulsate, but right above it was crystal clear with the Milky Way popping nicely.

And when I first sat down it looked like a good show was on tap. The first half hour I was out I was treated to meteor pace of about 40-50 per hour. Pretty good.

However, after that initial flurry the pace slackened markedly. For the evening as a whole I'd say we had a rate of 20-25 per hour, most of them very quick and not all that bright. (There were actually more slower moving, brilliant meteors on Friday night.) That is the way these things go sometimes.

I hope they are right about tonight being a 100 per hour peak as viewing conditions should be good around here again...but the Perseids have a way of disappointing sometimes. Just gotta be patient.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Meet Ron Paul, The Non-Factor

Two of the top candidates didn't even bother to contest the Iowa straw poll and Ron Paul cannot do any better than 5th, finishing behind such luminaries as Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo.

So to the Roniacs out there...get over it. You are the very definition of fringe. You are an Ed Wood movie, a Jamie Hoover solo album, and a novel by Jim Thompson all rolled into one. You are the Republican Dennis Kucinich.

And to all those folks who were saying Paul would be the "x factor" in the straw poll, all I can say is what were you smoking?

Huckabee's second place finish, on the other hand, might mark his having a longer run in the whole process than he might have otherwise. We shall have to see if it translates into more campaign contributions or not, but it does offer more legitimacy that he should at least be in the conversation.

Even More Is It Not Getting Hot In Here

This time it is outright fraud instead of an error in good faith: UN Climate Panel Accused of Possible Research Fraud

At virtually the same time NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies was correcting historical climate data with the assistance of Climate Audit's Steve McIntyre, a British mathematician discovered serious flaws in papers used and cited by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its most recent Assessment Report.

Douglas J. Keenan, a former Morgan Stanley arbitrageur and current independent mathematical researcher, identified "fabrications" in such studies that suggest a "marked lack of integrity in some important work on global warming that is relied upon by the IPCC" and that "the insignificance of urbanization effects on temperature measurements has not been established as reliably as the IPCC assessment report assumes."

"Fabrications"? Who do they think they are, Ward Churchill? Actually it is Wei-Chyung Wang, a professor at the University at Albany, State University of New York.

Mr. Keenan's paper can be found here (pdf thingy!), and the quoted material below is taken from it.

Once again we have the problem of climate researchers attempting to hide their data from outside investigation, as a UK Freedom of Information request had to be filed to obtain the list of Chinese meteorological stations used in the papers in question. How is that necessary? Why isn't that data made available as a matter of course?

In this case it seems such data was not made available because fraudulent claim were being made about it.

Regarding station movements over time, the papers of Jones et al. and Wang et al. make the following statements.
The stations were selected on the basis of station history: we chose those with few, if any, changes in instrumentation, location or observation times. [Jones et al.]

They were chosen based on station histories: selected stations have relatively few, if any, changes in instrumentation, location, or observation times…. [Wang et al.]

Those statements are essential for the papers.

Each paper gives the same reference for its statement: a report resulting from a project done jointly by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). The DOE/CAS report (available via http://cdiac.esd.ornl.gov/ndps/ndp039.html) resulted from concern over “possible CO2-induced climate changes”. Its purpose was to present “the most comprehensive, long-term instrumental Chinese climate data presently available”. It contains, in particular, histories of some Chinese meteorological stations, including the different locations of those stations and the dates on which they moved, if any.

The DOE/CAS report was formally published in full in 1991—Wang et al. and Jones et al. used a pre-publication version of the report. A revised version of the report was published in 1997, but the station histories are the same in the two versions.

Jones et al. and Wang et al. consider the same 84 meteorological stations in China. Regarding 49 of those stations, the DOE/CAS report says, “station histories are not currently available” and “details regarding instrumentation, collection methods, changes in station location or observing times … are not known” (sect. 5). For those 49 stations, then, the above-quoted statements from the two papers are impossible.

Regarding the remaining 35 stations that were analyzed by the two papers, I have prepared a summary of the relevant information from the DOE/CAS report. The summary is available at http://www.informath.org/apprise/a5620/b17.htm. As an example from the summary, one station had five different locations during 1954–1983, with the locations as much as 41 km apart. Two other stations each had four different locations. At least half the stations had substantial moves (two other examples, of 25 km and 15 km, were given above). Moreover, several stations have histories that are inconsistent, making reliable analysis unattainable.

(The station that moved five times during the study period, #54511, is discussed by Yan et al. [Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, 18: 309 (2001)]; the authors conclude that some of the moves affected temperature measurements by 0.4 °C. The authors also discuss another station, #58367, which had a single move of 4 km; the authors conclude that the move affected temperature measurements by 0.3 °C. The authors’ statistical analysis, though, is invalid—e.g. it does not consider significance—so the conclusions are unproven.)

Additionally, the following statement from the DOE/CAS report seems apposite: “Few station records included in the PRC data sets can be considered truly homogeneous [i.e. have no significant changes in location, instrumentation, etc.]. Even the best stations were subject to minor relocations or changes in observing times, and many have undoubtedly experienced large increases in urbanization.”

The essential point here is that the quoted statements from Jones et al. and Wang et al. cannot be true and could not be in error by accident. The statements are fabricated.

As Kennan's paper notes the entire idea of using measurements (supposedly) collected during the chaos of the Cultural Revolution in China as evidence of anything is fantastical enough. That these papers are used to "refute" the idea that urbanization is responsible for much of the measured temperature increase given their complete disregard of proper scientific method is a bad joke.

Unfortunately, this will be largely ignored by the media and the joke will continue to be on all of us.

Hysteria Over Intelligence (In More Ways Than One)

If it is a weekend it must be time for the MSM to come forward with the news that contradicts the well established media meme of the previous week or two. This time it is over the new wiretap rules. You remember, what the Bush administration wanted so they could keep tabs on the Rotary and 4-H Clubs around the country...or so we were told.

Turns out that was bunk:

At a closed-door briefing in mid-July, senior intelligence officials startled lawmakers with some troubling news. American eavesdroppers were collecting just 25 percent of the foreign-based communications they had been receiving a few months earlier.

Congress needed to act quickly, intelligence officials said, to repair a dangerous situation.

...

The prelude to approval of the plan occurred in January, when the administration agreed to put the wiretapping program under the oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The court is charged with guarding against governmental spying abuses. Officials say one judge issued a ruling in January that allowed the administration to continue the program under the court’s supervision.
A ruling a month or two later — the judge who made it and its exact timing are not clear — restricted the government’s ability to intercept foreign-to-foreign communications passing through telecommunication “switches” on American soil.

The security agency was newly required to seek warrants to monitor at least some of those phone calls and e-mail messages. As a result, the ability to intercept foreign-based communications “kept getting ratcheted down,” said a senior intelligence official who insisted on anonymity because the account involved classified material. “ We were to a point where we were not effectively operating.”

Mr. McConnell, lead negotiator for the administration in lobbying for the bill, said in an interview that the court’s restrictions had made his job much more difficult.

“It was crazy, because I’m sitting here signing out warrants on known Al Qaeda operatives that are killing Americans, doing foreign communications,” he said. “And the only reason I’m signing that warrant is because it touches the U.S. communications infrastructure. That’s what we fixed.”

The argument that we cannot listen in on overseas terror suspects because their call goes through American telecommunication infrastructure is simply a non-starter and has only the effect of protecting terrorists at the expense of innocent people all over the world. There is no rational basis for any other argument.

Here is how CQ sees the issue:

Congress had a duty to act to rectify this problem. Yet, according to James Risen and Eric Lichtblau, they stalled, even after being told of an increasing intelligence gap. Even as late as early July, when the DNI started getting very specific about the gap, Democrats wanted to put off any work on FISA until mid-September. Only after the White House went public with its concerns and demanding some sort of action on the bill did Democrats finally and resentfully agree to get it done before the August recess.

And immediately after that, Democrats accused the White House of "playing the fear card," an asinine allegation. Democrats have castigated this administration of deceiving them and bullying them in order to get themselves off the hook with their base, but in the end, these complaints amount to an admission that Democratic leadership is populated with fools and wimps who can't stand up for their beliefs, whatever they profess their beliefs to be.

Once again we see the danger of pandering to the Daily Kos wing of the Democratic base, which, when you get right down to it, is every bit as irrational and myopic as the religious right part of the Republican base. The truth is they don't care if, for example, embassies are bombed from here to Timbuktu as long as they can scream hysterically about the Bush administration. Any Democrat who kow-tows to the DK line cannot be taken seriously in regards to national defense.

Turn It Into Hate

The poster boy for the netroots is having issues, or so says the AP: Edwards uses anger in campaign

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is taking a page from Bill Clinton's playbook and building on it. He feels your pain — and your anger.

The upbeat Mr. Sunshine and Southern moderate of the 2004 presidential race has turned into the populist pursuing support from the party's liberal wing in hopes of overcoming leading rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. Edwards has given voice to voters' frustrations over an unending Iraq war, rising health care costs and disenchantment with Washington.

Anger can be a tricky emotion for a politician. In 2004, Howard Dean was known as the angry candidate and it proved to be part of his downfall.

"The electorate gets to be angry, but politicians typically should be more temperate," said Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons, who added that "there's a fine line between channeling anger and being angry."

Edwards is different from Dean, who had a tendency to get ticked off at times and pop off unexpectedly. Edwards is channeling his emotion in a more deliberate way.

Still, Edwards' impassioned outbursts also can backfire, especially when his own past words and deeds come back to haunt him.

In Tuesday's AFL-CIO debate, Edwards' voice rose as he pledged his solidarity with union workers, citing the 200 times he walked picket lines in the last two years and being with rank-and-file at "crunch time."

"That's the question you have to ask yourself. Who will stand with you when it really matters?" he asked.

Rival Joe Biden testily suggested Edwards was a Johnny-come-lately, who only embraced labor's cause recently for the political expediency of the presidential race.

"The question is, did you walk when it cost? Did you walk when you were from a state that is not a labor state?" Biden asked.

To make its point, the Biden campaign distributed a list of news stories from 1998, when Edwards ran for the Senate, showing that he supported a North Carolina law that prevented workers from being forced to join a union — an anti-union position.

"I think Senator Edwards, fairly or unfairly, has come across in this campaign to some as being less than authentic," said Andy Arnold, chairman of the Greenville, S.C., Democratic Party.

Last week, Edwards was vociferous in demanding that Clinton and other rivals refuse contributions from News Corp., owner of Fox News, which he labeled as biased against Democrats. A day later, News Corp. pointed out that Edwards has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars for a book published by the corporation's HarperCollins. News Corp. asked whether Edwards would return his book advance; he said he gave the money to charity.

Faced with this reality, Edwards lashed back.

"They can continue to attack," the candidate snapped on CNN's "The Situation Room." "They will not silence me."

Someone on Edwards staff should point out to him that his Democratic rivals probably do not want to see him "silenced." If Edwards wants to continue to feed Clinton or Obama or Biden(!) with easily dismissible rants, they will happily accept.

There is such a thing as "looking Presidential" and you cannot survive and prosper in politics without it. You may be able to win a primary without a Presidential air about you, particularly in a year when your party's prospects seem dim (think Goldwater in 1964 or Dukakis in 1988.) However, the Democratic prospects for 2008 are good and everybody knows it. The hysterical lefty bloggers may desire an ill-tempered lunatic as the perfect embodiment of their existential being, but regular Democrats don't and won't.

It is sort of sad, as Edwards has at least made an effort to have a bit more content in some of his policy proposals compared to his rivals, but his pandering to the worst elements of the Democratic base will get him nowhere fast.

Does Edwards really believe being a more rabid Kucinich is the path to victory?

When Being "Progressive" Means Being Dense

This is Think Progress' idea of cutting criticism.

1. Begin post as follows:

In his Thursday column, Philadelphia Daily News scribe Stu Bykofsky seemingly wished for the tragic death of 3000+ Americans when he wrote that “another 9/11 would help America.”

O.K., so Think Progress draws attention to Bykofsky's thoughts and provides a handy link to read them for oneself. Check.

2. Then criticize right wing blogs for drawing attention to Bykofsky's thoughts and providing a handy link to read them for oneself. Check.

Drudge gave the article a top row, center column link:

The bastard!

(Where exactly should Drudge's new content first show up? As a footnote under how to send him an email? Maybe as a comment in the HTML?)

3. Then, of course, criticize right-wing talk radio and Fox News for having the unmitigated gall to speak to Bykofsky. Check.

Yes, because we know personages making outlandish or provocative claims never get covered by left leaning media.

4. At no time will the actual ideas of Bykofsky be addressed in the slightest detail. Check.

Congratulations Think Progress, you consistently display all the intellectual honesty of a Soviet era show trial.

As an aside: What did Bykofsky write for which he should be, presumably, blacklisted?

ONE MONTH from The Anniversary, I'm thinking another 9/11 would help America.

What kind of a sick bastard would write such a thing?

A bastard so sick of how splintered we are politically - thanks mainly to our ineptitude in Iraq - that we have forgotten who the enemy is.

It is not Bush and it is not Hillary and it is not Daily Kos or Bill O'Reilly or Giuliani or Barack. It is global terrorists who use Islam to justify their hideous sins, including blowing up women and children.

Iraq has fractured the U.S. into jigsaw pieces of competing interests that encourage our enemies. We are deeply divided and division is weakness.

...

America's fabric is pulling apart like a cheap sweater.

What would sew us back together?

Another 9/11 attack.

The Golden Gate Bridge. Mount Rushmore. Chicago's Wrigley Field. The Philadelphia subway system. The U.S. is a target-rich environment for al Qaeda.

Is there any doubt they are planning to hit us again?

If it is to be, then let it be. It will take another attack on the homeland to quell the chattering of chipmunks and to restore America's righteous rage and singular purpose to prevail.

The unity brought by such an attack sadly won't last forever.

The first 9/11 proved that.

I guess Think Progress doesn't like to be called a chipmunk.

UPDATE:

Go read this and you tell me if it doesn't sound like the DK believes Nixon started the Vietnam war.