Tuesday, February 28, 2006

In The Spirit of Smilin' Joe Isuzu...

Well, it appears the Dubai ports deal is doubly problematic! Meanwhile, in the face of serious objections from his own party and from the Coast Guard, all Shrub has to say is "Trust me".

Oh, and "You're all racists!", of course.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Common Sense is Racist, Now!

It's become tiresomely predictable, now - if you object to the Bush family's plans to enrich their business partners, you must be a racist. The issue, for the slow ones out there or for anyone who's been relying on old media for news, is not that security in 21 US ports will now be handled by Arabs. Rather, that the job will be done by a foreign government with proven ties to anti-US terrorism. Not giving them - or any other foreign government which might wish to act contrary to our interests - control over our ports would seem to be common sense.

To say nothing of this inconvenient little law, that seems to have been mysteriously bypassed in order to let the deal go through. In fact, Treasury chief John Snow, who supposedly reviewed the deal - now claims he never heard of it, along with the ostensible head of Homeland Security. (Mr. Snow sold his company's port operations to the same UAE firm in a deal worth $1.15 billion, before he took his current cabinet post.) But Bush has known about it for weeks (video link).

And if you object - even just to ask 'Who benefits?' - why, you're a racist.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Suitably Advanced Technology...

"A non-running computer produces fewer errors."

One of the more interesting cognitive obstacles to quantum computing is the idea of superposition - that is, like Schrodinger's cat being alive and dead at the same time, the computer can be on and off at once. The waveform may collapse - the program may finish - and at the end you may find out the program never ran in the first place. Here is a little thought-experiment to help guide the perplexed.

And It Begins

Appointing an anti-abortion demagogue to the Supreme Court must have encouraged some people. South Dakota has just criminalized abortion. It is now a felony for doctors in that state to perform an abortion except to directly save the life of a pregnant woman. The text of the bill is here.

The bill's sponsor, State Rep. Roger W. Hunt, also has sponsored a bill (HB1217) that "would require schools that offer sex education classes not to promote or provide information about the use of contraceptive drugs, devices or methods.".

I wonder how many unwanted pregnancies this man has experienced. And how many unwanted children he's prepared to adopt. Some rather stranger part of myself wonders if getting knocked up is just what it would take to change his mind...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Distance Education

Harvard, MIT and Berkeley are offering audio lectures and presentations for distance students of all stripes, no tuitions needed. They skew towards computer science at the moment, and MIT's offerings are rather slim, but there are some real gems on offer.

An update: Don't miss the remarkable Walter Lewin's series of video lectures at MIT. Especially if you aspire to teach physics, you poor, sad, deluded fool..

Update the second: I eat MetaFilter's dust. And I'm a double-sad deluded fool for not at least mentioning Wikiversity.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Ways Dick Cheney Can Kill You

I notice that drinking while hunting without the proper permit, disregarding safe hunting practice, and then blasting some guy in the face didn't make it onto the list - though that might count as just 'shooting'. And lo and behold, the victim's just oozing sympathy for poor ol' Crashcart. But isn't it interesting what nobody's been talking about, this past week?

"There is an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and obviously focuses first and foremost on the President, but also includes the Vice President." -- Dick Cheney, 2/15/06

"Federal law states that it is a felony for officials to disclose the contents of classified documents to persons who aren't authorized to receive them. ... Cheney would have first had to request that George Tenet authorize Agency declassification. There is no record that such permission was ever sought or obtained." -- Reality

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Sprites, Jets, Elves, and Fireballs

This story has been making the rounds lately. 'Sprites' were first reported in the 19th century, and in the 1950's pilots spotted what seemed to be plumes of flame over thunderstorms. High-speed photography has captured the phenomenon in clearer detail than ever before, but it's been widely observed before. They were abundantly observed above Hurricane Georges.
Now, if 7,000 frames per second doesn't seem like 'high speed' to you, perhaps this will be more impressive. Below are the early microseconds of an atomic detonation. Note the plasma streaming down the test tower's guide wires. The shutter speed here equals 1/100,000,000 of a second.

Not Mellow Yellow

Mr. Harry Whittington, the man Crashcart shot last weekend, is on his feet again. While we breathe a sigh of relief, let's examine just who this man is.

"The Texas funeral industry was then riddled by claims of irregularities, some surrounding Service Corporation International, of Houston, a large chain of funeral homes headed by an ardent supporter of the Bush family. Under Whittington, the commission reluctantly settled a whistle-blower lawsuit filed by a former state regulator who maintained that she had been fired for investigating the company."

And just look where SCI ended up. I don't at all wish Mr. Whittington had had need of their services; however, I can appreciate the potential symmetry. I wonder if it occurred to him, this past week.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Friday Bunnyblogging


OMB Held Hostage!

Further evidence that the Office of Management and Budget is under the President's thumb: in their recent rundown of all federal programs, they call FEMA's disaster response 'adequate'.
Of course the criteria of 'adequacy' and the evaluations are made by the same people who won't let NASA scientists talk in public about global warming, or the Big Bang.
And just how much will "Operation Iraqi Liberation" cost, again, guys? Sheesh.

Orpheus, Avatar of Dionysus

The Orphic Theogony formed the basis of one of the more interesting classical mystery schools. Initiation into the Orphic mysteries set the initiate on the path to the lower world, from which one was born to new life and knowledge of one's inner deity. These were the original 'born-agains'.

I have flown out of the sorrowful, weary circle.
I have passed with swift feet to the diadem desired.
I have sunk beneath the bosom of the Mistress, the Queen of the

And now I come a suppliant to holy Persephoneia,
That of her grace she send men to the seats of the Hallowed.
Happy and blessed one, thou shalt be god instead of mortal.

The Root Of Life

A breathless article in Discover relates one of those facts that only seem like common sense after you hear it:

"People, even most biologists, don't have a clue. The general public thinks genetic diversity is us and birds and plants and animals and that viruses are just HIV and the flu. But most of the genetic material on this planet is viruses. No question about it. They and their ability to interact with organisms and move genetic material around are the major players in driving speciation, in determining how organisms even become what they are."

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Most Dangerous Game

Poor Mr. Cheney just can't seem to get arrested no matter what he does! When it turned out that he was the one who instructed Scooter Libby to leak Valerie Plame's identity, any reasonable person could expect that would do it.
But after several days had passed, and there'd been no knock at the door, he must have turned desperate. 'Gee, what do I have to do - pump some random guy full of lead?'.

Of course, it's not at all news that Crashcart really, really likes killing things. But consider the more than 18 hour gap between the 'hunting accident' and the first news reports. It took an 'outside the loop' Corpus Christi affiliate to finally break the story. If one of our most public figures can pull the trigger on someone in broad daylight in public and keep that kind of a lid on it - what do you suppose goes on in those secret CIA prisons?
And why're we building new ones right here at home (besides the chance to give Halliburton a new no-limit no-bid contract)?

An update - and this promises to be the press field day to end all field days already: a quail hunter raises some questions concerning the White House's official story.

Friday, February 10, 2006

But Hillary Said 'Plantation'!

"I mean, you know, I think these civil rights leaders are nothing more than racists. And they're keeping constituency, they're keeping their neighborhoods and their African-American brothers enslaved, if you will, by continuing to let them think that they're -- or forced to think that they're victims, that the whole system is against them." -- Jimmy Carville's wife!

Oh isn't it a shame how the black man's keeping the black man down? This is only the latest spate of ridiculous racist nonsense to get a public airing in the wake of Coretta Scott King's funeral. Without spending too much time on the mess, let's give the last word to August Pollak:

...I would tend to think that if you're actually concerned that the friends and family of a woman who fought for civil rights and peace and suffered government wiretapping would bring that up at her funeral, you shouldn't be surprised people at [her funeral] would be upset with you after going to war, opposing civil rights, and ordering illegal government wiretaps.

But what do I know, I didn't know Coretta Scott King the way every conservative blogger on the internet did.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Much Is Revealed

An article in today's Washington Post reveals many details about the administration's domestic espionage program. In addition to the number of people spied on - about 5,000 - and the sort of data recovered, there's this explanation as to why they didn't do it legally:

The minimum legal definition of probable cause, said a government official who has studied the program closely, is that evidence used to support eavesdropping ought to turn out to be "right for one out of every two guys at least." Those who devised the surveillance plan, the official said, "knew they could never meet that standard -- that's why they didn't go through" the court that supervises the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.

This program has yet to result in a single arrest.

Framing 101

First Draft's 'athenae' expands on some comments by Atrios, and gives some useful advice for Democrats as to how to respond to Third World nuclear threats:

...Or by doing anything other than using the words "diplomacy" and "negotiation" and "United Nations." I've got nothing against any of the three, but they're pundit flashpoints, like little shiny silver things are for crows. We should instead say "Reagan," "deterrence," "threat the Bush administration fucking ignored while it was off playing with its chemistry set in Iraq," and "grown-up solutions for the real world."

Friday, February 03, 2006

Friday Bunnyblogging

Ah, simple pleasures..


Well Isn't This A Surprise

It seems that AG Gonzales has been stalling to hold up the grand jury looking into Plamegate! And it further turns out that the Vice President's office has been busily deleting emails sent during the time and to the parties under investigation:

"In an abundance of caution," he writes, "we advise you that we have learned that not all email of the Office of the Vice President and the Executive Office of the President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system."

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Welfare State

According to the Economic Policy Institute's analysis, all the job growth the country's seen under this administration has been due to - wait for it - government spending.

But, you know - small government! Fiscal responsibility! Making your own way in the world! 9-11, 9-11, 9-11!


For Those With Short Memories

Irregular Times contrasts the current state of the union with the promises made last year. You can predict how this one sorted out:

Bush 2005 SOTU promise: “To make our economy stronger and more productive, we must make health care more affordable and give families greater access to good coverage and more control over their health decisions.”

Bush 2005 Reality: Bush’s 2006 budget incorporates an increase in out-of-pocket Medicare expenses for poor people, a reduction in Medicare eligibility, elimination of old people from nursing programs.

Would Illegal Wiretaps Have Prevented 9/11?

How shameless. "You must give up your liberties in exchange for security." It would be reprehensible even if it were true. Which, of course, it's not.

... Al-Midhar bought his plane ticket for Flight 77 with his real name. At the time, he was wanted by the FBI and CIA for attending a terrorist meeting in Malaysia. He was also on a State Department watch list called TIPOFF. Al-Hazmi also bought a ticket for Flight 77 using his real name. And he shared an address as 9/11 hijacker Nawaq Alhazmi...

... if existing programs had been utilized properly, and the FBI had conducted simple searches for common addresses among wanted terrorists living in the US, the 9/11 plot might have been foiled. Besides being illegal, Bush's domestic wiretapping program was -- and is -- unnecessary in protecting America from terrorism. This raises questions about the White House's motives for implementing such a program.