Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Worm Turns

And who knew the Court had it in them? Of course, after so many years of executive power run amok, it's debatable what difference a mere Supreme Court decision can make, but this might conceivably lead to more mild and halting criticism of the administration, before the boldest of the 'opposition party' scurry back under cover again.

There's an election coming up, after all.

Read Glenn Greenwald's analysis of the decision (.PDF) here. Digby weighs in here.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Taking Which Fight To Whom, Precisely?

Another day, another bunch of show arrests. Who remembers the Brooklyn Bridge faux-terrorist, armed with his cutting torch? Beyond merely distracting us all from our continued failure to bring in Osama, I wonder what the larger point of this chicanery might be...

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales stressed that there was no immediate threat in either Chicago or Miami because the group did not have explosives or other materials it was seeking.

"This group was more aspirational than operational," FBI Deputy Director John Pistole said.

Nevertheless, Gonzales said Thursday's arrests underscored the danger of "homegrown terrorists" who "view their home country as the enemy."

And there we may have a clue!

An addendum: Another Day In The Empire has more about this group and their engineered downfall, beginning with this early ABCNews report:

An outline of the indictments to be announced later today indicates the men began meeting with an unnamed FBI informant in November 2005.

... And he then spent six months grooming them for this showboat arrest. The wheels of justice grind slow, but exceedingly fine, for better or worse.

As a second addendum: mainstream sources continue to report that these men were Muslims. For whatever reason that's relevant, so is this article by Juan Cole setting them straight.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

This Isn't A War - And We Aren't Liberators

Thom Hartmann performs a bit of needed re-framing:

Every time the media - or a Democrat - uses the phrase "War in Iraq" they are promoting one of Karl Rove's most potent Republican Party frames.

There is no longer a war against Iraq.

It ended in May of 2003, when George W. Bush stood below a "Mission Accomplished" sign aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln and correctly declared that we had "victoriously" defeated the Iraqi army and overthrown their government...

... What we have now is an occupation of Iraq.

We've accomplished what we ostensibly set out to do in Iraq. Saddam is out of power, and a new democratic government has been installed. That government is now clearing its throat, checking its watch, and glancing meaningfully at the door. There were no WMD's. The insurgency will end, and the country will be that much more stable, when the occupiers go home.

Santorum Froths

"This twenty-year old, inert sample of mustard gas is why the world must invade Iraq immediately."

"Congressman Hoekstra and I are here today to say that we have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, chemical weapons..." -- Sen. Frothy Mix

"While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible Indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter" -- Reality

So unless he has better Iraqi intelligence than the President - and that is entirely possible - Mr. Santorum is once again talking out his ass. This has not kept the predictable Republican sources from rubber-stamping the Senator's remarks. Some points, however, remain underemphasized:

Offering the official administration response to FOX News, a senior Defense Department official pointed out that the chemical weapons were not in usable conditions...

... "This does not reflect a capacity that was built up after 1991," the official said, adding the munitions "are not the WMDs this country and the rest of the world believed Iraq had, and not the WMDs for which this country went to war."

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Also, Christmas Is Cancelled

There is no joy in Mudville: Rove will not be indicted.

Additionally, we're receiving reports that there is no Easter bunny, and Santa is really your father in a silly hat.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Coolest Picture You'll See Today

A UV image of the sun on 'a quiet day', courtesy of the
Transition Region and Coronal Explorer
. Temperature range in this photograph is from a few thousand degrees to one million degrees Celsius.

Background on the TRACE space telescope here, and at the official website here

Mission Accomplished! Again!

David Corn, on the realities and implications of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death, and a little bit of forgotten history:

In March 2004, NBC News' Jim Miklaszewski reported that the White House had three times in 2002 turned down a Pentagon request to attack Zarqawi, who then was believed to be running a weapons lab in northern Iraq--in territory not controlled by Saddam Hussein's government. Miklaszewski wrote that "the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam." That is, the Bush White House let Zarqawi alone so it would have an easier time selling the war in Iraq.

When he was convenient to the administration's interests, he lived. And when he could provide a convenient distraction, he died. His path from a piece of anti-Saddam riffraff tucked away in our no-fly zone to a great anti-American boogeyman shows us how awry intentions can go when they're not the best.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

There Is No Good News

From USA Today, a report indicating that the extra armor added to Humvees to keep troops safe has led to more fatal rollover accidents:

"I believe the up-armoring has caused more deaths than it has saved," said Scott Badenoch, a former Delphi Corp. vehicle dynamics expert told the Dayton Daily News for Sunday editions.

So if even the best intentions can go so terribly awry, what might that mean for the rest of the troops's 'mission'?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Google Office!

Beta applications are being considered for Google's new web-based spreadsheet application, one of a series of upcoming office utilities from that company. JotSpot, Dabble, and ThinkFree already offer collaborative or web-enabled spreadsheet and office software, if you're impatient or don't make it into Google's trial.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Evolutionary Diversity

For anyone who's grown tired of recent mass-market misrepresentations of evolution, a stiff dose of actual fact: three introductory lectures by Bora Zivkovic.

Origin of Biological Diversity

Evolution of Biological Diversity

Current Biological Diversity


So, How's Your IRA Doing?

Is it adding $1,000 a week? No? Well, then, we know your last name is not DeLay:

A registered lobbyist opened a retirement account in the late 1990s for the wife of then-House Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and contributed thousands of dollars to it while also paying her a salary to work for him from her home in Texas

The grand total, after 6 years: $490,000. Not too shabby for a work at home job - or for one illicit revenue stream among dozens. And this is just the kind of thing they didn't feel it was worthwhile to try to hide - after all, who'd investigate him?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Short Skirt, Big Mouth

Don Hazen has our last word on everyone's favorite horse-faced reactionary parody-neocon media darling:

I urge you, I challenge you, I beg you, to ignore this woman. Find the inner discipline. The world will be a better place for it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Some People Are Immune To Irony

Ms. Coulter's underlying point appears to be that dogma is a poor substitute for reason:

Though liberalism rejects the idea of God and reviles people of faith, it bears all the attributes of a religion itself. In Godless, Ann Coulter throws open the doors of the Church of Liberalism, showing us:

* Its sacraments (abortion)

* Its holy writ (Roe v. Wade)

* Its martyrs (from Soviet spy Alger Hiss to cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal)

* Its clergy (public school teachers)

* Its churches (government schools, where prayer is prohibited but condoms are free)

* Its doctrine of infallibility (as manifest in the "absolute moral authority" of spokesmen from Cindy Sheehan to Max Cleland)

* And its cosmology (in which mankind is an inconsequential accident)

Then, of course, there's the liberal creation myth: Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

For liberals, evolution is the touchstone that separates the enlightened from the benighted. But Coulter neatly refutes the charade that liberals are rationalists guided by the ideals of free inquiry and the scientific method. She exposes the essential truth about Darwinian evolution that liberals refuse to confront: it is bogus science.

One would hope she could find a better champion of reason than William Dembski. Still, filling chapter after chapter with his lies means that this book may contain fewer of Ms. Coulter's own. Her most honest book yet? Appropriately enough, the strong-stomached among us will get to find out today.

Monday, June 05, 2006

That Number ...

It does not mean what you think it means:

... "Nero conducted the first systematic persecution of both Jews and Christians and is clearly identified with the real beast of Revelation." ...

... The Hebrew consonants that spelled out "Nero Caesar," in the Greek form of the name, add up to 666. (Transliterated into the Latin form of Nero Caesar, the numbers add up to 616.) ...

... People who embrace a perceived symbolism of 666 as satanic "are making a statement of cultural rebellion," said Raschke. "They are saying 'I stand for something in total opposition to the historical morality of the west.'"

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Sad Part Is, He Spent The Money On Cats

No, actually, the sad part is that after pocketing 1.14 million dollars - to play the stock market with, actually - Mr. Frist's punishment amounts to less than a month's interest on that sum. He likely lost more when his stocks went south than he did when his malfeasance was uncovered, and of course he will retain his position - for as long as people can be persuaded to vote for him. But at least he didn't have the money in his freezer, like 'Dollar Bill' Jefferson.

Under the bus with that guy! Pay no attention to my stock portfolio! Got any cats?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Paging Doctor Leary

Neurologist and mathematician Jack Cowan presents a mathematical model for some simple, common types of hallucinations in this video lecture. Chris Chatham summarizes:

The bottom line of Cowan's simulations are that the functional organization of cortex is quasi-periodic, and thus shares many of the characteristics of quasi-crystals ... Therefore, many of the mathematical techniques used in crystal physics can apply to understanding neural noise.

Theoretical neuroscience is evidentally still in its infancy, and there's a great deal remaining to be explained about the experiences and perceptions encountered while in an 'altered state'. There we must yield to more advanced students of more traditional fields.

Next, We'll Make It Roll Over And Shake Hands

It's just comical what some folks are doing to light these days. And to think it used to be so chaste and dignified.

In the past few years, scientists have found ways to make light go both faster and slower than its usual speed limit, but now researchers at the University of Rochester have published a paper today in Science on how they've gone one step further: pushing light into reverse. As if to defy common sense, the backward-moving pulse of light travels faster than light.

Anti-Einsteinian shenanegans, you say? Well, not quite. The good professor's currently off on a technicality:

"Einstein said information can't travel faster than light, and in this case, as with all fast-light experiments, no information is truly moving faster than light," says Boyd. "The pulse of light is shaped like a hump with a peak and long leading and trailing edges. The leading edge carries with it all the information about the pulse and enters the fiber first. By the time the peak enters the fiber, the leading edge is already well ahead, exiting. From the information in that leading edge, the fiber essentially 'reconstructs' the pulse at the far end, sending one version out the fiber, and another backward toward the beginning of the fiber."

So it's something of an optical transporter malfunction - but interesting stuff, nonetheless.

Another Bunch Of Bad Apples

How many 'isolated incidents' do there have to be before the pattern becomes clear to everyone? Another town, another massacre:

The BBC has uncovered new video evidence that US forces may have been responsible for the deliberate killing of 11 innocent Iraqi civilians.

And the official response? A Powerpoint presentation on 'Core Warrior Values'. At best a few peons will be sent off to the stockades while the people giving the orders will get medals and promotions.

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What Went Wrong In Ohio

Rolling Stone, checking in from 2 years ago, reports on a story that should be common knowledge already - and the fact that it isn't ought to be a story in itself.

Republicans prevented more than 350,000 voters in Ohio from casting ballots or having their votes counted -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House.

Greg Palast has a new article up about the 2004 election, too. You could also check out Salon's response to the Rolling Stone article, and then see what John Rogers has to say about its deficiencies.

As an update - here are two more rebuttals of the Salon story. Just a quick read, though, reveals its weaknesses, and the Rolling Stone piece is terrifying to anyone who knows anything about statistics.

Deja Vu All Over Again

No Blood for Hubris dissects the standard media apologists's response whenever something rotten and squirming is found in the core of Bush's apple:

If it's not: those bad jihadis take their three-year olds to demonstrations, therefore the three year olds are jihadis, so we can kill them

Then, it's: these bad jihadis take their three-year olds to demonstrations, and the three year olds will grow up to be jihadis, so we can kill them

And the all-purpose: justa few bad apples

Followed by the: war is hell

Most of what I've seen so far's fallen into that latter category, with a healthy dollop of 'But someone else once did something bad too!' and the odd bit of 'Why do you hate America?'. Sadly, this sort of rhetoric may be enough to carry the 'discourse', in the absence of a vigorous opposition party.

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Chronology of the Killings

Reuters provides us with this handy timeline of the massacre at Haditha. Names, dates and times, for future reference.

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U.S. Troops Kill Pregnant Woman

Not to just pick one intance out of an mountain of senseless deaths, but this report seems especially abhorrent:

U.S. forces killed two Iraqi women — one of them about to give birth — when the troops shot at a car that failed to stop at an observation post in a city north of Baghdad, Iraqi officials and relatives said Wednesday. Nabiha Nisaif Jassim, 35, was being raced to the maternity hospital in Samarra by her brother when the shooting occurred Tuesday.