Friday, September 30, 2005

How to Succeed

Kevin Drum finds this oddity in General Casey's testimony:

Asked whether the insurgency has worsened, Casey said it has not expanded geographically or numerically, "to the extent we can know that." But he noted that current "levels of violence are above norms," exceeding 500 attacks a week. "I'll tell you that levels of violence are a lagging indicator of success," he added
So the more successful we are this month, the higher the level of violence next month? Or maybe his brain just exploded from all the cognitive dissonance.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Judy Talks. Judy Walks.

David Johnston and Douglas Jehl in the NYT:

Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who has been jailed since July 6 for refusing to testify in the C.I.A. leak case, was released from a Virginia detention center this afternoon after she and her lawyers reached an agreement with a federal prosecutor to testify before a grand jury investigating the matter, the paper's publisher and executive editor said.

Ms. Miller was freed after spending more than 12 weeks in jail, during which she refused to cooperate with the criminal inquiry. Her decision to testify came after she obtained what she described as a waiver offered "voluntarily and personally" by a source who said she was no longer bound by any pledge of confidentiality she had made to him. She said the source had made clear that he genuinely wanted her to testify.

That source was I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, according to people who have been officially briefed on the case.
Very interesting. It seems Libby claims that he had given her permission to talk all along, but she wouldn't accept it until he told her personally.

It does seem to leave numerous theories of Miller's purportedly sinister role hanging out to dry.

A Message from my Congressman

An excerpt from a message from my Congressman:

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce today issued the following statement regarding the indictment and temporary resignation of U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) as House Majority Leader:

"The charges against Congressman DeLay have been brought by a District Attorney who has an extensive track record of prosecuting opponents for the sheer political effect. . ."
The full text of my reply.
Bullshit!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

More Where He Came From

Not to worry, the Republican party is in no danger of running out of crooks to be majority leader.

Arctic Warming

The NYT and everybody else talk about the latest Arctic warming results. The Arctic has been heating up fast, and most think greenhouse gases are implicated. Fortunately for the doubters, James Inhoffe, Senator from the State of Confusion, has found a science fiction writer to set the record straight. (via Wonkette and Brad Delong.)

I wonder if Lubos is available.

Hammer Time

Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum and all the usual suspects have stories on Tom Delay's troubles and the resulting convulsions in GOP House leadership. Nobody seems to have the details that (apparently) implicate Delay.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

New Award?

Brad Delong is the scorekeeper in this year's hard fought "Stupidest Man Alive" contest. One of his recent posts inclines me to believe we might need a new category - call it the Jonathan Swift "There is none so blind . . . " SMA category. So how about it, Brad? His post hints that David Frum is a good candidate:

Frum: [M]uch of the trouble is the president’s own fault. He chose to appoint Michael Brown to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He chose to spend lavishly on highways and farmers and a new prescription drug benefit at the same time as he was fighting a global war on terror. And of course it is he who remains the final decision-maker on national security....

[A]s one who... still critically supports him, I find the sudden surge of public disenchantment with Mr Bush very difficult to understand. If you were looking for a diligent manager of the office of the presidency, a close student of public policy, a careful balancer of risks and benefits – George W. Bush would never be your man. But is this news?...

In a 2003 book about Mr Bush, I offered this assessment of his personality: Mr Bush is “a good man who is not a weak man. He is impatient, quick to anger; sometimes glib, even dogmatic, often uncurious, and as a result ill-informed...
OK let's do the math: Bush makes bad appointments, is profligate with the public treasure, appoints idiots, is a lousy manager, doesn't understand the issues, bad tempered, dogmatic, and an ignoramus by choice. So, David, what's not to like? I think I can see why you still follow him.

Murder One

It must have been just an imaginary shudder I thought went through Jack Abramoff today. He is under indictment for wire fraud and other crimes, but sometimes having options is not that big a comfort. Florida, for example, gives the condemned the choice of lethal injection or the electric chair.

This point must have become a bit more immediate with the arrest for murder and conspiracy of three men linked to the Gambino crime family. James V. Grimaldi and Susan Schmidt have laid this and much else out in a very nice Washington Post Story.

The chain of events got underway when Abramoff and Kidnan bought Santa Cruz Casinos from (the late) Gus Boulis. The murdered man was a former partner who had been complaining that Jack and his business partner (and old College Republican buddy) Adan Kidan had cheated him out of several million dollars. The problem for the partners is that a nice fat ($240,000) money trail leads from their enterprise to the alleged perps. Their troubles are not theirs alone. Republican Congressmen Tom ("Jack who?) Delay and Bob ("I was duped") provided some political muscle to make the original casino deal happen.

Abramoff is at the center of a federal investigation into lobbying for Indian tribes and influence-peddling in Washington. Abramoff used contacts with Republican Reps. Tom DeLay (Tex.) and Robert W. Ney (Ohio) and members of their staffs as he worked to land the SunCruz deal, interviews and court records show.
This is just another bit of bad news for a couple of guys whose day might already have been spoiled.
On Aug. 11, Abramoff and Kidan were indicted by a federal grand jury in Fort Lauderdale on five counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy relating to their $147.5 million SunCruz purchase. Prosecutors alleged that Abramoff and Kidan faked a wire transfer of $23 million -- the down payment they had agreed to put into the deal for the fleet of Florida-based day-cruise casino boats.
Coincidence, no doubt, but:
Abramoff and Kidan were traveling on business abroad at the time of Boulis's murder.
Jack has a lot of old College Republican buddies who have also been enmeshed in his schemes - Karl Rove, Grover Nordquist, and Ralph Reed for example. It's just possible that the prosecutors might suspect that Jack now has some incentive to start talking.

Monday, September 26, 2005

R'ithmetic

The LA Times has discovered why Americans can't do math. In Why Johnny can't calculate David Klein and Jennifer Marple blame those who teach the teachers.

The root cause of the LAUSD's shortcomings in math is its failure to place its best math teachers in charge of math policies. Cronyism substitutes for knowledge of subject matter. The district should systematically require those in authority over math policies to pass rigorous math tests and interviews at the chalkboard before a panel of university mathematicians and veteran math teachers.
They also complain that the curriculum committe ignored the advice of, among others, Caltech mathematicians. I personally would treat that recommndation a bit lightly, since I have it on good authority that most of those guys can't even teach their own 800 Math SAT students.

The item stirring some controversy in the region of the blogosphere that I read concerns fractional division as repeated subtraction. Here's Kevin Drum's reaction:
This particular anecdote struck me as especially bizarre:

Too often, the math that teachers are taught at district training sessions is just plain wrong. For instance, middle school teachers are erroneously taught that fraction division is repeated subtraction. This makes sense only for special examples such as 3/4 divided by 1/4 . In this case, 3/4 may be decreased by 1/4 a total of three times, until nothing is left, and the quotient is indeed 3. Understanding division as repeated subtraction, however, is nonsensical for a problem like 1/4 divided by 2/3 because 2/3 cannot be subtracted from 1/4 even once. No wonder students have trouble with fractions in high school.
"Fraction division is repeated subtraction"? I don't even get that.
On the other hand, Brad Delong thinks it makes perfect sense:
Well, division can be thought of as--in fact, is--repeated subtraction. That's one way of defining what division is, just you can define multiplication to be repeated addition and exponentiation to be repeated multiplication (and taking roots to be repeated division; the cube root is the answer to: "what number can I divide this by three times to get one?").

...

The idea that "division is repeated subtraction" is much better when a student is first confronted by division by a fraction--3/4 divided by 1/4, say--than is the alternative of "division is dividing into piles." You divide 50,008 into piles of 14 and you have 3,572 piles. But you divide 3/4 into 1/4 of a pile and... a student who thinks "division is dividing into piles" is immediately lost. By contrast, if the student starts out thinking that "division is repeated subtraction," it is easy for him or her to see what 3/4 divided by 1/4 is: how many times can you subtract 1/4 from 3/4 before you get zero? And the answer is three.

It even works with 1/4 divided by 2/3: you can't subtract a whole 2/3 from 1/4 and get zero; but you can subtract 3/8 of a 2/3 from 1/4 and get zero. I at least, think it is more intuitive to think of 1/4 divided by 2/3 as "what fraction of 2/3 can you subtract from 1/4 to get zero?" rather than "suppose you divide 1/4 into 2/3 piles, how much is in each pile?"
WTF?

Hey, I can understand division as repeated subtraction. It even looks kind of sensible when you express fractions in terms of a common denominator (1/4)/(2/3) = (3/12)/(8/12), but figuring out that 3/8 of 2/3 goes into 1/4 once requires knowing the answer in advance. I think it's much more useful to learn the idea of an inverse operation, and that multiplying by the inverse is the same as dividing.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Here's a Shocker!

From the WaPo Analysis of Chimp Genome Affirms Science of Evolution.

RIP Serge Lang

Serge Lang, noted mathematician and contrarian, and author of 40 mathematics books, including the influential Algebra, died Sept 12 at the age of 78. The NYT has this story.

Delphic Prophecy

Croesus, the legendairily wealthy King of Lydia consulted the Oracle of Delphi before attacking Persia, and according to Herodotus received the answer "if you do, you will destroy a great empire." (Adapted from theWikipedia) Croesus considered this a favorable omen, and attacked, resulting in the destruction of a great empire (his).

George Bush set his sights on smaller game, but the same result appears to loom. He has already destroyed our reputation. Our Army is still intact, but showing lots of strain. The economy looks all but doomed.

Satan's Junior Legion

So how does an up and coming brown shirt get his start these days? Kevin Drum of Political Animal has a note on College Republicans and so does Wonkette. Both link to and quote from The New Republic article (free but login required).

It seems that this Junior GOP is not only incorporated as a 527, and generously funded, but also benfits from the advice of distinguished alumni like Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, and Grover Nordquist. Jack Abramoff is another, but he's a bit preoccupied lately. Nordquist's advice: "There are no rules in a knife fight."

They practice the basics on each other, forged letters, accusations of homosexuality, the like. Wonkette's favorite is this:

The College Republicans sent out their solicitations on the letterhead of such nonexistent groups as "Republican Headquarters 2004" and "Republican Elections Committee." Next, it helps to fill the missives with as much emotion as a Wagnerian opera. "Apparently the Democrats don't have any concern about hurting you, your family or America," one letter read. "Their sole concern is revenge--vengeance--retribution." The most infamous of these missives included an American flag lapel pin. It urged recipients to pray over the pin and return it, along with $1,000. According to the letter, the pin would be worn by the president as he accepted the Republican nomination: "I could have sent you your own lapel pin, but I knew that it wouldn't mean nearly as much to you as being able to give a special gift to President Bush during this challenging time." This letter, incidentally, bore the signature of Paul Gourley. . . Finally, it helps to send these letters to senior citizens, who are lonely and sometimes suffering from dementia. "I don't have any more money," Cecilia Barbier, a 90-year-old retired church council worker and College Republicans contributor, told the Seattle Times. "I'm stopping giving to everybody. That was all my savings that they got." In a single year, Barbier made 300 donations for the organization, adding up to $100,000.
Once you've screwed a few old ladies out of their savings, you're ready to be a real Republican and screw whole countries.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Special Prosecutor

There has been an eerie silence from the Plamegate prosecutor lately, and if I understand correctly, his grand jury's term is up at the end of the month. It will certainly be anti-climatic if he closes shop with no result.

On the other hand, a few key indictments, with maybe some unindicted co-conspirators, might bring Bush's increasingly shaky house of lies tumbling down. Don't forget that Delay and Frist also have potential criminal exposure.

Extrication

Regular readers, if any, will know that I'm deeply pessimistic about the Bush-Rumsfeld policy in Iraq, in any of its incarnations. So what can we do?

Option I: Get the hell out, and let the Devil take the hindmost. This is what we ultimately did in Vietnam, and the result was less than catastrophic, for us and for Asia. Unfortunate side effects would be that our enemies would be greatly emboldened, our tattered prestige tattered even more, and our Middle Eastern Allies would be at great risk. Probably even more seriously, there would almost certainly be a civil war, a civil war that would likely bring in several other nations, with a likelyhood of making Iran the regional superpower. There would be a good chance that we could kiss Middle East oil goodbye, with catastrophic economic effects.

Option II: If I could figure out what the Bushies were actually trying to accomplish, that would be my Option II. We are turning the country into a vast anti-American terrorist training camp, turning most political power over to Iranian backed Shia, and presiding over a medium intensity civil war.

Option III: Juan Cole has made a proposal, and has posted several replies, critiques, and answers over at his invaluable site. My summary of his plan would be: pull back to air bases in the Kurdish region and (say) Kuwait, and limit our role to preventing pitched battles in a civil war by making it impossible for the insurgency to assemble and deploy large formations. Aside from that, we would have some special forces whose main role would be to rescue downed American pilots.

I don't know if Juan's plan can work, but it would get us mostly out of Iraq and eliminate most Iraqi caused American casualties and vice versa.

Peaceniks for Bush

I've been watching a singularly inept anti-war demonstration on C-SPAN , one that could hardly have been more counterproductive if it had been organized by Karl Rove - and perhaps he had his hand in it. If you want to make a case against the war, you need to speak to the American people have NOT yet made up their minds. A few of the speakers, especially the mothers of soldiers living and dead, made that case simply and movingly.

Somebody, though, thought it was a good idea to include any old left-wing nutjob or political opportunist (yeah, I was thinking of you, Ralph) with an axe to grind. I can almost guarantee that the dreadlocked anti-Israel lefties didn't win any net converts. Ditto for those who thought this was a forum to advance lesbian rights.

Republicans are never so stupid about politics. Their speakers are as meticulously selected as fashion models, and no message deviation is tolerated.

Any nostalgia I might have for the sixties is completely eclipsed by my disgust at the incompetence. There is a very good case to be made that the war was based on lies and fantasies, and an even better one that it's been atrociously mismanaged, and damnit, somebody ought to be making it. Appeal to our logic, to our better natures, and to our anger, but let's keep our focus.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Swagger

Jim Vandehei and Peter Baker have a story in tomorrow's Washington Post entitled President Struggles to Regain His Pre-Hurricane Swagger. They see a loss of self confidence, at least among the WH staff.

The cheerleaders are still on the bus though. They claim the President is undaunted by adversity - sort of like the Monty Python knight undeterred by the progressive loss of all his limbs. Presidential consultant and friend Mark Mckinnon says:

. . .if anything Bush thrives under the pressure. "I've never seen the president burdened by the presidency," he said. "He's built to deal with really big events. It's in his DNA."
Too bad always screwing up is also in that DNA.

A Policy of Torture

This New York Times article provides yet more testimony and evidence that torture in Iraq and Afghanistan was policy. One of many shameful aspects of this is the despicable behavior of senior military commanders and their civiliian supervisors in sending low ranking enlistees to prison for crimes those senior officials authored.

It's very disturbing to me how easily the civilians at the top were able to corrupt senior military officers and get them to betray their duty and their soldiers. So far only one general officer, the guy who investigated Abu Ghraib, has put patriotism and duty before career.

Thanks Again GW

Josh Marshall has good article on how the Bushies are working to turn Katrina into another major graft opportunity. He's got a nice intro too:

For all of us who criticize from the sidelines, sometimes it's hard to appreciate the sort of tireless, behind-the-scenes efforts that the White House puts into into screwing the middle class and abandoning those displaced and uprooted by Katrina.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Rove the Fixer?

Be sure to catch R. Jeffrey Smith WaPo story on the Abramoff-Rove connection.

Timothy E. Flanigan, general counsel for conglomerate Tyco International Ltd., said in a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that Abramoff's lobbying firm initially boasted that Abramoff could help Tyco fend off a special liability tax because he "had good relationships with members of Congress," including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.).
Flanigan is Bush's nominee to be Deputy Attorney General.

And
Rove's personal assistant at the time, Susan Ralston, formerly worked as Abramoff's secretary.
Rove doesn't recall anything about it. I know that gives me a lot of confidence.

Bad Words

George Carlin made himself famous with the "seven dirty words" that couldn't be said on television. American political discourse has it own set of "bad words," the utterance of which marks one as nutjob, naif, or at least an uncouth person. Most famous among them are the "F" and "C" words.

Naturally then, when Andrew Sullivan, conservative blogger and former GW love slave, felt an "F" coming on, he resorted to a slightly more delicate circumlocution:

An arresting analysis of the Bush administration's governing "philosophy." More like Spain and Italy in the 1930s than anything resembling Anglo-American conservatism.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Rita: Is Texas Screwed?


Rita has now outdone her older sister Katrina - 898 mb central pressure, the 3rd lowest ever for an Atlantic Hurricane. Galveston is very near the bullseye of her projected path. It also seems possible that Rita will stall out over Texas and dump up to 30 inches of rain.

Note the rapidly expanding wind field at right.

A conservative Republican scientist said to me today "It's got to be global warming."

The experts aren't convinced, but I find the storms a lot more suggestive than a cold winter day or two in Boston in Boston.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Heat of Confusion

I wanted to reply in some detail to Lumo's comment on my last post, so I'm doing so in a new post. Lumo's comments and my responses:

Lumo – “ok, let me talk to you as to a student. You can't say that anything in the actual numbers has proved any point that Connolley has ever made because such a conclusion is nothing else than faulty logic.”

Student – The student, who is flattered to be addressed as such even though he had a PhD before Lumo was born, disagrees. To review:

Connor: “. . . the Arctic sea ice, the northern hemisphere's major "heat sink" that moderates climatic extremes.“

Connolley: “No. The arctic sea ice *isn't* a major heat sink . . .”

My numbers showed that the seasonal heat transfer to and from the Northern hemisphere (NH) oceans is more than 25 times that to and from the Arctic sea ice. The major NH climate moderating heat sink is the ocean.

Lumo - The main quantitative calculation has shown that the truth was closer to me by 3 orders of magnitude. The latent heat is simply 1,000 times greater than what Connolley feels and estimates to be the case.

Student – What does this refer to? I don’t think it refers to anything in my post.

Lumo - In the Polar Regions that I will count together, one needs one year of systematic inflow of the sunshine to melt the sea ice. If the inflow us changed by 1% by a changed CO2 concentration, and again I am pretty cavalier, it speeds up the melting processes by something like 1%. Whatever statistics you imagine, you will need centuries for significant meltdown caused by human activity.

Student – Don’t try to change the subject. We are talking about the NH. The South Pole is on a mountainous continent, has km thick glaciers, and relatively little sea ice – it is a very different case.

More to the point, sunlight does not melt the Polar sea ice. The net radiation budget for the North Polar Cap is negative for all but a tiny fraction of the year, and almost zero for that period (at the South Pole it’s negative all year around). The melting of the sea ice in summer is almost entirely due to heat transfer from the atmosphere, air that was heated outside the Polar Regions. More than an order of magnitude down is an oceanic transfer, which consists mainly of replacing exported sea ice (icebergs) with water at the same temperature. The foregoing is the reason that it makes no sense to consider polar heating and melting in isolation – essentially all the heating and melting is a result of sunlight falling on the rest of the planet.

Lumo - All the catastrophic predictions that they made are unsupported by a good calculation. They're always based on a silly error like this one by Connolley - huge overestimate of the speed how various processes in nature can change in response to various changes of the environment.

CIP - Here I feel the role of student is no longer appropriate – a stern disciplinarian is required. Your claim is not honest. You have repeatedly accused the models of neglecting effects that they in fact consider. Dishonesty is a serious fault in anyone and intolerable in a scientist – much worse than stupidity. You have extrapolated from a perhaps typographical error of one scientist in a casual blogversation to a condemnation of a whole systematic science.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Commie Climatology

Some recent action in the Republican War on Science, Climatology Edition, with Lubos Motl leading the cavalry.

Climatologist William Connolley had a comment on Steve Connors’ article on climate change. This provoked a response, and ultimately, a declaration of war from noted physics blogger Lubos Motl. Here’s the original comment’s that provided Lumo’s starting point:

Connor: “. . . the Arctic sea ice, the northern hemisphere's major "heat sink" that moderates climatic extremes.“

Connolley: “No. The arctic sea ice *isn't* a major heat sink . . .”

Note that the context here is “the northern hemisphere,” since Lumo will conveniently try to change the subject later. The arctic sea Ice has an areal extent that averages about 10^7 km^2. The surface area of the northern hemisphere is about 2.5 x 10^8 km^2, of which roughly 1.5 x 10^8 km^2 is ocean. The wintertime production of sea ice in the arctic averages about 1.3 m in thickness(P&O, pg 362), so the overall volume production is about 1.3 x 10^13 m^3 or 1.3 x10^16 kg. Multiplying by a latent heat of fusion of 3.34 x 10^5 J/kg we get an energy release of 4.3 x 10^21 J. By comparison, the northern hemisphere ocean releases about 1.2 x 10^23 J from October to February. Thus, as a moderator of northern hemisphere temperature, the Arctic sea ice is less than 4%, so it’s certainly not “the major heat sink” moderating the northern hemisphere climate.

Two more numbers:
Energy per m^2 to melt icecap: 7 x 10^8 J/m^2
Energy to cool NH ocean to 0 C: 4.3 x 10^12 J/m^2

With that point in hand, let’s look at one of Lumo’s paragraphs:

“William also has his own private blog called Stoat. In the newest article, he questioned the statement by Steve Connor that the Arctic sea ice is a major heat sink. “

We’ve examined that.

“In the main text he said that ice couldn't be a heat sink because it reflects solar radiation. So I explained him that when we say that it is a heat sink, we mean that it absorbs the heat particularly from the ocean, not from the Sun. I expected him to realize his error.”

Connolley was actually quoting Connor in the part about reflection of solar radiation: His (valid) point is that the reflective and insulating properties of sea ice prevent the Arctic ocean from absorbing more heat in the Summer and releasing more in the Winter. Lumo’s point would be more applicable if the Arctic sea ice were a larger factor in global heat storage.

Lumo continues: “Instead, he continued and wrote that the latent heat of ice is completely negligible, and they can forget about it when they work with their climate models.”

Let’s look at the complete text of Connolley’s answer to Lubos:

“Steve, Lumo: the sea ice is a negligible heat sink. Its 1-3m skim of water on top of a 1-3km thick ocean. Compared to the ocean its heat capacity is negligible. Thinking of it as a heat sink is a mistake. It *does* strongly affect the air-ocean fluxes by insulaing the warm ocean from the cold air, and by affecting the albedo, but thats a different matter.”

Connoley did *not* say that the latent heat of ice was “completely negligible” or that it could be neglected in climate models.” He was trying to explain to Lubos that the main climatic effect of the sea ice was by insulation and changing the ocean albedo, but let’s take a look at some of the argumentative techniques now employed. We have already seen above:

1) Making shit up.

2) Changing the subject:

Lumo: “Now, there are about 2 meters of ice in average in the Arctic and approximately 2 kilometers of water underneath. Simple counting shows that by melting the ice, you can cool down the whole underlying ocean by 0.1 degrees - the predicted "global warming" trend for a whole decade.”

Recall that we are talking about the heat storage of the whole northern hemisphere. Lubos has decided that it would be better just to talk about the Arctic Ocean, so he has calculated that melting all the Arctic sea ice would cool the rest of the Arctic Ocean by 0.1 C – except that said ocean is already at freezing temperature. For the whole northern hemisphere ocean, the effect is about 0.004 C.

3) Bringing in absurdly irrelevant information: Lumo spends a paragraph or so calculating how much the Arctic CO2 could be chilled (150,000 C !) by as much heat extraction as would be required to produce the Polar ice cap.

Lumo’s original claim was that: “This looks like an excellent example how the self-confident climate "big shots" are ignorant about basic numbers in physics and how worthless their reasoning is.”

Perhaps because this case has not been made, the heavy artillery is hauled out:

4) Call the other side communists: “Water does not matter for them. What's the real reason that water is not interesting? Well, it's because the evil capitalists produce as much water as the nice communists and ecoterrorists.”

The above was the last part of a paragraph that relies heavily on technique (1) above, by claiming that global climate models ignored the most important greenhouse gas, water vapor. That claim is spurious.

I have a few quibbles of my own with Connolley. He could have been more precise than he was on a couple of points. Of course he probably didn’t realize that he was dealing with a brilliant but utterly unreasonable Harvard physics professor.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

S S Titanic: Sleeping with the Fishes

I thought I ought to check out what the other side is reading, just in case Kevin, Brad, Josh, et. al. are giving me a biased view of the world. Episode the First.

The editor of The American Daily asks: "Why does the "Left" encourage/support Muslim Extremists?" You may not be surprised to find he thinks he knows the answers:

1) The Muslim Extremists want the USA to fail, so does the Left-Left.

2) The Left -Left loves to control the populace, so do the Muslim Extremists.

3) The Left-Left is stupid enough to think they will exist after the Muslim Extremist takeover and the Muslim Extremists are smart enough to know how dumb the Left-Left folks are.


And he knows what to do about it:
However the "Left-Left" of the "democrat party" are a serious threat to the existance(sic) of the USA and deserve to be visited by some social and political extermination crews.
Is this a great country or what? The author claims to have worked on the Space Telescope for six years. I wonder how much he had to do with the screwed up focus.

Those brown uniforms look like crap though - or was that the idea?

S. S. Titanic: Supper

Riverbend has been reading her proposed new constitution , but it's a bit complicated and contradictory, since even the Arabic versions don't agree with each other, and the English version is different from them. Unfortunately she doesn't read Kurdish, so who knows about that.

She also remembers 9/11/01:

I remember almost immediately, Western media began conjecturing on which Islamic group it could have been. I remember hoping it wasn’t Muslims or Arabs. I remember feeling that way not just because of the thousands of victims, but because I sensed that we’d suffer in Iraq. We’d be made to suffer for something we weren’t responsible for.

E. looked at me wide-eyed that day and asked the inevitable question, “How long do you think before they bomb us?”

“But it wasn’t us. It can’t be us…” I rationalized.

“It doesn’t matter. It’s all they need.”


Four years later, the war on terror is no closer to being won, but some have lost:
It has been four years today. How does it feel four years later?

For the 3,000 victims in America, more than 100,000 have died in Iraq. Tens of thousands of others are being detained for interrogation and torture. Our homes have been raided, our cities are constantly being bombed and Iraq has fallen back decades, and for several years to come we will suffer under the influence of the extremism we didn't know prior to the war.

As I write this, Tel Afar, a small place north of Mosul, is being bombed. Dozens of people are going to be buried under their homes in the dead of the night. Their water and electricity have been cut off for days. It doesn’t seem to matter much though because they don’t live in a wonderful skyscraper in a glamorous city. They are, quite simply, farmers and herders not worth a second thought.

SS Titanic: Sunday Brunch

Lubos Motl has a post up with an interesting quote from Tony Blair:

"...My thinking has changed in the past three or four years. No country is going to cut its growth. [China and India] are not going to start negotiating another treaty like Kyoto. What countries will do is work together to develop science and technology. … There is no way that we are going to tackle this problem unless we develop the science and technology to do it. ... How do we move forward, post-Kyoto? It can only be done by the major players coming together and pooling their resources, to find their way to come together."
This is first of all an admission of the obvious - an anti-pollution treaty can't work when the biggest polluters refuse to play. The guy who chopped down the last tree on Easter Island might have made a similar remark. Perhaps he hoped that some technological advance would intervene to save the island from ecological catastrophe, or, more likely, he, like Bush and Blair, was a sky pilot convinced his actions were pleasing to the gods.


Not that I ever gave Kyoto much chance to work, even if the US had played. Only China has a policy that realistically confronts the fundamental problem - overpopulation. The means they adopted are probably only possible in an authoritarian society.

More hopeful is the example of Europe. Quite by accident, much of Europe has also achieved considerable success in limiting its population. Not only that, but they have succeeded without much sacrifice of personal liberty or economic prosperity.

The poorest, most miserable, and most dangerous nations on the planet are those with rapidly growing populations. The festering Muslim rage probably owes as much to explosive population growth as to resentment of the West. The catastrophes we see in Haiti and Africa are propelled mainly by overpopulation.

The US is not immune to this disease. Mothers who have many children, and especially mothers who have children early, are more likely to be poor and uneducated and produce poor, uneducated children. These same children are far more likely to become criminals than their agemates without these disadvantages.

Quite naturally, the people of these poor and overpopulated countries work very hard to escape to the prosperous countries that have succeeded in limiting their population growth. When they succeed, they often carry their culture, and its patterns of overbreeding, with them.

There is a fundamental Darwinian problem here: faster breeding populations will tend to crowd out slower breeding ones, but unlimited breeding leads to catastrophe. This is not a new situation for the human race, but the traditional ways of dealing with it - war, genocide, plague, and slavery - are morally obnoxious to us.

So is there any hope to escape this vicious cycle? Not while the US remains the capital of the stupidocracy, led by people opposed to population control, international agreements and humane principles. The duplicity, corruption, and incompetence of the present administration will bring it down eventually, but will there be anything much left of the US by then? I am far from certain.

Even with strong leadership from a still powerful US (if we should be so lucky), the task is still almost impossible. Religion and culture strongly promote overpopulation in most of the world. The only specific that seems of much efficacy is more rights and opportunities for women. In the Muslim world, that battle has seen little or no success.

Breakfast on the Titanic

Juan Cole has a post up this morning entitled Security Situation in Baghdad Sinking like the Titanic. He quotes a contact in Bagdad:

The situation has deteriorated in Baghdad dramatically today. Five neighborhoods (hay) in Baghdad are controlled by insurgents, and they are Amiraya, Ghazilya, Shurta, Yarmouk and Doura.
According to his contact, the insurgency now controls most parts of Bagdad, except for Sadr City, the power base of our onetime nemesis, Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army.

More from Bagdad:
A few minutes ago Jaafari came on television to tell everyone in Baghdad to stay home. Can't wait for his next bold move. . .

Notwithstanding Al-Hayat's claim that Zarqawi and the Sunni resistance are not together, my street listeners claim otherwise. . .

More and more of even the most patriotic intelligentsia are departing . . . It is remarkable how incapable this government is. Its only success is that it exists at all . . .

Recently, a group from State and the military parachuted in from Washington [with fatuous advice] . . . It is a fantasy world


The last throes continue.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Carpetbagging II

Anyone interested in the details of Bush's plan to convert the Hurricane disaster into yet another opportunity to rape and pillage the environment, the Federal treasury, and the American worker while enriching his cronies needs to check out Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo. He has the details and is helping organize resistance.

Leo Bosner

Leo Bosner is a FEMA official whose job it is to keep track of crises and alert his bosses to the need for action. He was on NPR Morning Edition today talking about the urgent messages he was sending to Brown and Chertoff three days before Katrina struck. The messages were sent to Chertoff's and Brown's emails and Blackberries. Their response: nothing. The fire alarm sounded but the firemen slept and vacationed on.

It's pretty obvious that any civil servant getting on the radio to provide compelling evidence against his political bosses, especially in the supremely vindictive Bush era, has sacrificed his career, but the American people owe him a debt of gratitude for letting some of the truth out.

What in the hell was Chertoff thinking? Or why was he so evidently not thinking?

Bush is easy to understand. The small-minded and nasty tyrant who surrounds himself with sychophants terrified to tell him the truth is an all-to-familiar character type. But Chertoff looked like a guy who knew which way was up. Clearly he wasn't.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Brookie I can Almost Like

David Brooks has a humorous column on the Roberts hearings and it's actually funny:

John Roberts Jr. Aw, shucks. This has been a humbling experience, Mr. Chairman. To think that a boy from an exclusive prep school and Harvard Law could grow up and be nominated for the Supreme Court...
And this:
Tom Coburn Well put, Judge Roberts. Yet when I think of the polarization that still divides this great nation ... waaaahhhh ... waaaahhhh. (Senator Coburn breaks down weeping.)

Jeff Sessions This may be a good moment to remind my colleagues on the other side of the aisle that in this country unelected judges don't write the laws. We have unelected lobbyists to do that. Under our system, judges merely interpret the law and decide presidential elections.

More of that and I could almost learn to like Brooks. Too bad he's disappearing behind this nasty subscription wall, though Paul Krugman is a few zillion times the loss.

Brad DeLong Listens to the Wise Men

Of economics, and guess what. They don't know shit either.

Those who analyzed or forecast the U.S. domestic macroeconomy agreed that a steep decline in the value of the dollar sometime in the next five years was overwhelmingly likely, but by and large they did not think that such a decline would pose a big problem for the U.S. economy. (They agreed that it might well pose a very big problem for some of America's trading partners.) By contrast, those who analyzed or forecast the international economy as a whole were typically terrified by the prospect of a steep (30% or more, perhaps much more) decline in the value of the dollar: they thought a severe U.S. recession was a definite possibility, and that the situation would require exceptionally skillful handling to keep from becoming a serious economic problem.

It's a nice article, and I strongly recommend it - but you won't likely come away with any better prediction of the future.

My own guess: not so good.

Pack Your Carpet Bag Karl, There's Money to be Made

At any rate, Josh Marshall thinks so.

As we suggested last night, and as President Bush has now put us on notice, the Gulf Coast reconstruction effort is going to be run as a patronage and political operation.

That's not spin or hyperbole. They're saying it themselves.

The president has put Karl Rove in charge of the reconstruction, with a budget of a couple hundred billion dollars.
Maybe it's time to stop relaxing and trying to enjoy this particular ...
This is a time when the country needs an opposition party. Every Democrat should be hitting on this. Take the politics out of the reconstruction effort. He put his chief spin-doctor in charge of the biggest reconstruction and refugee crisis the country's probably ever faced.
Come to think of it I predicted this myself, nine days ago.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Incompetent or Worse?

Kevin Drum has now posted a long list of FEMA's failures in New Orleans. One oddity that struck me in Kevin's list and others was the number of times FEMA actively interfered with efforts to get aid to the people in New Orleans. They prevented aid trucks from unloading, they failed to give permission for helicopters to enter into the rescue, they wasted the time of firefighters trying to deploy to New Orleans, they even cut the emergency communications of some local officials, and they put large red tape obstacles in the path of those bringing aid. Could all these things have happened by accident?

Well maybe. Regular readers may remember my earlier post concerning the scandal of the unburied bodies, which, it turns out, were being saved for a contract with Bush and Allbaugh cronies ISC. Given that, how far fetched is it to believe that Brown and crew were delaying aid to save some contracts for other cronies?

We need an independent investigation, and we need it now. A special prosecutor is probably also in order. If this scenario is even partly true, those responsible need to be charged with murder.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

David Brooks: Aviator and Avatar

I watched The Aviator last night. The dramatic high point of the movie occurs when Howard Hughes, already living in seclusion as a naked wretch paralyzed by his phobias and other demons, is summoned to oppear before a Congressional committee. Juan Tripe, the head of Pan American Airways, and his flunky, Senator Brewster, want to destroy Hughes so that Pan Am can be guaranteed a monopoly on overseas air travel. Hughes, revived by the crisis, pulls himself together with a little help from Ava Gardner and routs his enemies with a brilliant performance before the committee.

Similarly, the trajedy of New Orleans managed to wake David Brooks into the real world long enough to condemn the incompetence. Like Hughes awakening, it was brief. In today's New York Times column he can no longer remember the gross incompetence and venality that produced the disaster. The things that went wrong went wrong because government is inherently incompetent. His demented ideological blinders conveniently permit him to forget that history provides us with plenty of examples of competent government response as well as incompetent - for example, Hoover's energetic response to the great flood of 1927.

This was not a failure of our system of government, Mr. Brooks, this was a failure of leadership. In this week's Newsweek, Evan Thomas lays out some particulars in his story of How Bush Blew It. An excerpt:

It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States, or, as he is known in West Wing jargon, POTUS. The bad news on this early morning, Tuesday, Aug. 30, some 24 hours after Hurricane Katrina had ripped through New Orleans, was that the president would have to cut short his five-week vacation by a couple of days and return to Washington. The president's chief of staff, Andrew Card; his deputy chief of staff, Joe Hagin; his counselor, Dan Bartlett, and his spokesman, Scott McClellan, held a conference call to discuss the question of the president's early return and the delicate task of telling him. Hagin, it was decided, as senior aide on the ground, would do the deed.

Carrion Men

... this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.
Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 1

One of the seemingly inexplicable obscenities of the New Orleans catastrophe has been the bodies lying dead on the street day after day. Now, thanks to Josh Marshall, we have a plausible and horrifying explanation. Although there were volunteer morticians from all over the country willing to go to NO, it seems that it took a while for FEMA to get in place a contract for
Service Corporation International (SCI), another Houston-based corporation, which bills itself as the "dominant leader in the North American death care industry."
Unsurprisingly, this Houston based company has longstanding political ties to Bush, and to former FEMA director and Bush chief of staff Joe Allbaugh (Michael Brown's college roomate, and the guy who hired him). SCI was also the central subject of the so-called funeralgate scandal during Bush's time as Texas Governor. Another featured player in that scam was the Texas attorney general (and now US Senator) John Cornyn. Details from Salon at the link.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Unlikely Sequels

I know that it's considered a terrible faux pas among the artistically correct, but I'm quite fond of Andrew Lloyd-Weber musicals. I especially like Sunset Boulevard. To continue this stream of consciousness, it seems to me that there are a lot of good stories out there that don't have sequels. In the case of Sunset Boulevard, there would seem to be some substantial obstacles to a sequel, like the demise of one central character and imminent incarceration of another. These odds have not daunted many previous authors.

The Illiad ends with the slaughter of all the Trojan men, but Vergil didn't let this stop Aeneas. Sherlock Holmes survived his death and the dislike of his author to triumph again.

It's true that sequels are rarely very good, but there are some outstanding counterexamples. Most often cited are Huckleberry Finn and The New Testament, but how about The Lord of the Rings, and Seven Pillars of Wisdom? Not to mention Tolstoy's Anna Karenina Redux or Shakespeare's greatest comedy, Juliet and her Romeo: Married with Children.

So, Sir Andrew, or Lord Lloyd, or whatever they call you these days, how about an SB sequel. I see Joe as merely wounded, and Norma, after the shock of her arrest and incarceration, coming out to join Max in becoming a major 50's and 60's sitcom team. And Andy - some author has already written about the posthumous adventures of Eva Peron.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Bagdad on the Bayou

Little Tommy Friedman in today's NYT, approvingly quoting Michael Mandelbaum:

"The U.S. military presence in Iraq today is like the dikes and levees that were protecting New Orleans from the flood. The equivalent of the flood for Iraq is a civil war between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. The U.S. military right now is holding that back."
A more precise analogy would have called the US military presence Iraq's Hurricane Katrina X 100.

He goes on to advise the Kurds and Shia that they should get their constituional act together. Good advice. I imagine they pay as much attention to Tommy as he does to me.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

What went Wrong?

The NYT has a very administration friendly version of what went wrong here. It's written by Eric Lipton, Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, but I'd be surprised if they didn't get some coaching from their Bush sources.

This NYT editorial is less of a soft touch:

It's not really all that surprising that the officials who run FEMA are stressing that all-important emergency response function: the public relations campaign. As it turns out, that's all they really have experience at doing.

Michael Brown was made the director after he was asked to resign from the International Arabian Horse Association, and the other top officials at FEMA don't exactly have impressive résumés in emergency management either. The Chicago Tribune reported on Wednesday that neither the acting deputy director, Patrick Rhode, nor the acting deputy chief of staff, Brooks Altshuler, came to FEMA with any previous experience in disaster management. Ditto for Scott Morris, the third in command until May.


In any case, it's clear that no adequate plan existed. Any investigation that is not independent and non-partisan deserves to be dismissed out of hand as a coverup for one party or the other.

Genes and Brains

The subject of genes and the brain is a kind of third rail in human biology. Any results become targets for racists who use them to promote their theories and for many of my fellow liberals who denounce the very idea of such research. But it's still too important to ignore.

Bruce T Lahn and colleagues have some papers in Science discussing recent genetic changes in genes that affect brain size. The Science papers are behind a subscription wall, but many of the points are summarized in Nicolas Wade's NY Times article. They considered some genes in a group which, in mutated form, produce microencephaly (very small brains). They focussed on two of these genes that have alleles (variants) that appear to have arisen recently and spread widely, implying that they have a strong selective advantage.

Besides the connection with microencephaly, there is another hint that the genes could be connected to brain size and intelligence. In earlier work, Lahn

showed that a group of 20 brain-associated genes, including microcephalin and ASPM, had evolved faster in the great ape lineage than in mice and rats. He concluded that these genes may have played important roles in the evolution of the human brain.

As usual, the problem arises because of the link to the controversial relation of race and intelligence:
The new finding, reported by Bruce T. Lahn of the University of Chicago and colleagues in the journal Science, could raise controversy because of the genes' role in determining brain size. New versions of the genes, or alleles, as geneticists call them, appear to have spread because they enhanced the brain's function in some way, the report suggests, and they are more common in some populations than others.
Let's start by mentioning one thing this study doesn't do: It doesn't show whether or not the allele in question promotes greater brain size or any aspect of intelligence.

It does seem to show that, for at least some populations, it gives some selective advantage, but whether it's more smarts, warmer feet, or whatever, we don't know.
They report that with microcephalin, a new allele arose about 37,000 years ago, although it could have appeared as early as 60,000 or as late as 14,000 years ago. Some 70 percent or more of people in most European and East Asian populations carry this allele of the gene, as do 100 percent of those in three South American Indian populations, but the allele is much rarer in most sub-Saharan Africans.
My "warmer feet" notion is of course just a silly invention of mine, but one could certainly see an advantage for all those populations who have lived in cold places, but not for sub-Saharan Africans.

The other gene, called ASPM, has an apparently much more recently invented allele.
With the other gene, ASPM, a new allele emerged some time between 14,100 and 500 years ago, the researchers favoring a mid-way date of 5,800 years. The allele has attained a frequency of about 50 percent in populations of the Middle East and Europe, is less common in East Asia, and found at low frequency in some sub-Saharan Africa peoples.
Since it arose about the same time as Agriculture, it's at least possible that there is a connection.

The obvious further work is to 1) Investigate the specific functions of the genes 2) See if the alleles correlate with brain size, intelligence, personality, or whatever (warm feet?)

Coverup: Phase II

Republicans have decided that an independent investigation modelled after the 9/11 commission would be too risky, so they will manage the coverup by themselves.

(via Josh Marshall)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Coverup Report

The coverup is in full swing. Check out Josh Marshall:

At first the evidence was scattered and anecdotal. But now it's pretty clear that a key aim of the Bush administration's takeover of the NOLA situation is to cut off press access to report the story.
And this from Kevin Drum, including this quote:
At the National Guard checkpoint, they are under orders to turn away all media. All of the reporters are turning they’re TV trucks around."
from Bob Brigham

Impeach Bush.

Do it now!


Do it now! Posted by Picasa

Tom Friedman Still Doesn't Quite Get It

Friedman on Bush, Osama and Katrina: :

On the day after 9/11, I was in Jerusalem and was interviewed by Israeli TV. The reporter asked me, "Do you think the Bush administration is up to responding to this attack?" As best I can recall, I answered: "Absolutely. One thing I can assure you about these guys is that they know how to pull the trigger."
So the country gave Bush a blank check, and Tommy, my boy, you were one of his ardent pitchmen. But now you aren't happy about what he's done domestically.
If the Bush-Cheney team seemed to be the right guys to deal with Osama, they seem exactly the wrong guys to deal with Katrina - and all the rot and misplaced priorities it's exposed here at home.
You've got the last part right, TF, but in case you didn't notice it, bin Laden is still on the loose, and natural causes seem more likely to do him in than W is. These guys know how to pull the trigger, yes. Unfortunately, they never learned how to aim. Neither Bush nor Cheney ever accomplished anything in business except exploit political connections. Both are notorious screw-ups in every other enterprise.

You do get in one great line though:
These are people so much better at inflicting pain than feeling it, so much better at taking things apart than putting them together, so much better at defending "intelligent design" as a theology than practicing it as a policy.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Coming up Roses

In President Nero's world, every disaster is an opportunity, especially an opportunity for some war/disaster profiteering. Watch closely as the government starts spending 150 billion dollars in reconstruction aid. Rove figures he can buy a lot of friends for 150 billion of your dollars.

Emergency Response in Bushworld

The Salt Lake Tribune has a story on 1400 firefighters, recruited to aid in disaster relief, sent to Atlanta:

As New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded on national television for firefighters - his own are exhausted after working around the clock for a week - a battalion of highly trained men and women sat idle Sunday in a muggy Sheraton Hotel conference room in Atlanta.
FEMA was training them to do public relations - handing out FEMA flyers. Finally though, some got their first real assignment:
But as specific orders began arriving to the firefighters in Atlanta, a team of 50 Monday morning quickly was ushered onto a flight headed for Louisiana. The crew's first assignment: to stand beside President Bush as he tours devastated areas.
(via Josh Marshall)


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Monday, September 05, 2005

Imperial Capitalists

Juan Cole, one of the best informed and most astute Iraq observers, has an article today which includes this shot at the true believers in President Nero's war and their wavering faith:

These bellicose intellectuals--a band of Wilsonian idealists, cutthroat imperial capitalists, Trotskyites bereft of a cause, and neo-patriots traumatized by Sept. 11 are now increasingly divided and full of mutual recriminations.
Let the record show that this Pig may be bellicose, but has never cut a throat.

74%

According to a new ABC poll, 74% of Republicans approve of Bush's handling of the Katrina disaster, and only 47% of all Americans disapprove.

Via Kevin Drum, the Army Corps of Engineers knew of the Levee breach early Monday, and FEMA has been busy preventing aid from getting to New Orleans.

At what point does incompetence shade into genocide?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Pots & Kettles

Reading a blogger we know castigating those who would use the hurricane to flog their favorite ideologies. Natuarally, he uses the occassion to flog his favorite ideologies. My outrage spigots are pretty much empty though.

Love thy Neighbor

An AP story in my local paper quotes a Richard Gibbs of Gulfport, Mississipi:

I say burn the bridges and let 'em all rot there. We're suffering over here too, but we're not killing each other.
It's pretty hard not to wish him a long, miserable wait, but I think we need to remember that Rove, Bush, Haley Barbour, the Faux News gang and the other usual suspects are trying their hardest to portray the NO victims as undeserving animals. Their current scam is the same old refrain: turn American against American to exploit the wedge. I doubt if any traitor has ever given more aid and comfort to America's enemies than this gang.

And the Good News Keeps Coming

From the Houston Chronicle: Halliburton hired for storm cleanup.

via Josh Marshall

Liar! Liar!

When Michael Chertoff was appointed to preside over Homeland Security I actually got the impression that he might be a stand up guy - certainly an improvement over his hapless and somewhat buffoonish predecessor. Unfortunately, events have proven him an incompetent, lying piece of political crap. See, e.g. CNN here.

(via Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo.)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Rudy Rudy Rudy Rudy

Conservative half wits are starting to moon over Rudy Giuliani's stout leadership in the wake of 9/11. Exactly what was it he did once he figured out that his command post was destroyed? Essentially all the victims were already dead. No critical threat to the rest of the population actually existed.

The failures in New Orleans were manifold: 1) failure to prepare (Rudy flunks that one too - the failure of the firemen's radios killed dozens or hundreds.) 2) Failure to act quickly to aid survivors (since no one, or almost no one, survived the towers collapse, this wasn't a problem for Rudy), 3) Failure to even look like they gave a damn - Rudy wins this one hands down, 4) A steady parade of ignorant and dishonest statements from Brown, Chertoff, and Bush - I'll give Rudy this one too, but once again, for him, since there was nothing to be done, not doing much didn't matter.

Like Bush and Louisiana, Rudy was not prepared for the calamity. He has a much better excuse, since his calamity was not very easy to foresee ("who could have imagined...") Unlike the case with Bush, there was little he could do once the catastrophe happened, so he can't be blamed for what he didn't do..

Imagine

"Heck of a job Brownie" George Bush congratulating Michael Brown on the great job he had done managing the New Orleans and Gulf Coast disaster.

No one could have imagined that a man who had failed miserably at his previous job of "as the commissioner of judges and stewards for the International Arabian Horse Association" might prove less than capable at managing the greatest natural disaster in American history, or at least no one utterly lacking a brain could have imagined it.

Kevin Drum has some details.

Shame

The outrage that has consumed me for the last five days is gradually being replaced by shame and despair. How could our country have sunk so low? How could the American people have elected this Nero of a President who parties on while thousands of our citizens drown?

Maureen Dowd says it better here.

Shirt-sleeves rolled up, W. finally landed in Hell yesterday and chuckled about his wild boozing days in "the great city" of N'Awlins. He was clearly moved. "You know, I'm going to fly out of here in a minute," he said on the runway at the New Orleans International Airport, "but I want you to know that I'm not going to forget what I've seen." Out of the cameras' range, and avoided by W., was a convoy of thousands of sick and dying people, some sprawled on the floor or dumped on baggage carousels at a makeshift M*A*S*H unit inside the terminal.

Why does this self-styled "can do" president always lapse into such lame "who could have known?" excuses.
Money that was intended to shore up the levees was diverted to the war. So were much of the human and material resources of the Louisiana National Guard. Federal Emergency Planning money was outsourced to contractors, who did exactly what?
Ron Fournier of The Associated Press reported that the Army Corps of Engineers asked for $105 million for hurricane and flood programs in New Orleans last year. The White House carved it to about $40 million. But President Bush and Congress agreed to a $286.4 billion pork-filled highway bill with 6,000 pet projects, including a $231 million bridge for a small, uninhabited Alaskan island.
Thank you Senator Stevens. Thank you Senator Frist. And thank you speaker Hastert. Most of all, though, thank you President Nero.
Michael Brown, the blithering idiot in charge of FEMA - a job he trained for by running something called the International Arabian Horse Association - admitted he didn't know until Thursday that there were 15,000 desperate, dehydrated, hungry, angry, dying victims of Katrina in the New Orleans Convention Center.

Was he sacked instantly? No, our tone-deaf president hailed him in Mobile, Ala., yesterday: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."
This is a leader who surrounds himself with like minded individuals.
It would be one thing if President Bush and his inner circle - Dick Cheney was vacationing in Wyoming; Condi Rice was shoe shopping at Ferragamo's on Fifth Avenue and attended "Spamalot" before bloggers chased her back to Washington; and Andy Card was off in Maine - lacked empathy but could get the job done. But it is a chilling lack of empathy combined with a stunning lack of efficiency that could make this administration implode.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Off the Mass Shell

In a rational world, President Bush would start by ordering Chertoff to fire, or preferably shoot, Michael Brown. After that, he should fire Chertoff, and resign.

In Bushworld, it seems certain that Brown and Chertoff will get the Medal of Freedom, and that Bush will appoint a panel of partisan hacks to do a coverup.

Since the government won't do an honest investigation, somebody else should.

A news consortium? Do any of them have the guts?

Bye Bye, BlackHole?

Einstein didn't believe in black holes, and neither did Oppenheimer. A new paper today, http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0509007, looks to me like a possible confirmation of their intuition, if it's correct. Andreas Aste and Dirk Trautman find that:

A test particle falling into a classical black hole crosses the event horizon and ends up in the singularity within finite eigentime. In the ‘more realistic’ case of a ‘classical’ evaporating black hole, an observer falling onto a black hole observes a sudden evaporation of the hole. This illustrates the fact that the discussion of the classical process commonly found in the literature may become obsolete when the black hole has a finite lifetime...

The description of the evaporating black-hole is the semi-classical Hawking-Unruh description, so that the real physics near the horizon is of course not understood, but I found the result highly suggestive. Also suggestive is this recent paper http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0508048 by Christian Fronsdal. Fronsdal doesn't consider evaporation, but he also finds that BH have a tough time actually forming - the tough part is for the matter to actually get inside its Schwarzschild radius.

Both papers seem to me to suggest that while apparent black holes (objects that look like black holes from far away) no doubt exist, the long discredited "frozen star" picture might actually be more appropriate. Of course these frozen stars would be quite hot if you got close to them.

Why do they Shoot at Rescue Convoys?

I don't know the answer to this question, but after reading this Los Angeles Times story, I have a theory. It's the story of a heroic group of firefighters who rescued many from drowning only to have to abandon them on isolated patches of dry ground where no further help came. The climactic mission was to rescue doctors and patients from a hospital. Along the way they passed hundreds of desperate people, begging for water, food, and rescue, but they needed to keep rolling. Eventually they were stopped by a human wall across the road, and fled. Mothers were cradling dead babies, or dying children - people were dying by the roadside, but their mission was elsewhere. Is it then so strange that some desperate people would shoot as potential aid rolled right by them?

Not to me.

An NPR reporter told of watching a young woman dying in front of her of asthma, while heavily armed national guardsmen stood around, focussed on their mission - keeping order. She begged the guardmen for aid, and eventually one said he would try to find somebody - too late - the woman died.

In other stories, NG guarded a location for bus loading, but nobody paid any attention to telling the people waiting where the buses were going or when they would come. Nobody made any provision for the aid or comfort of those waiting. People with family in Baton Rouge were not allowed to leave when the bus passed through, but forced to continue on to whatever distant destination the bus was headed for.

I'm as angry as I've ever been about a national policy matter. I think I can understand why blacks could be angry enough to do violence against those responsible, or maybe even to anybody who looked like them. This is 9/11 and Pearl Harbon combined, except that callous indifference and governmental incompetence is responsible this time, not a foreign enemy. For Bush and his clique of kleptocrats, FEMA was just another chance to dish out millions of dollars to political cronies - like the multi-million dollar contracts to privatize FEMA functions.

I think there is enough blame to go around for State and local officials too, but their role is less clear to me at this point.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Faith Based Impeachment

From NPR today: A tabletop exercise, "Hurricane Pam" was conducted this year where they considered the worst case scenario for New Orleans. They determined that there were 112,000 households in NO that had no transportation. How would these people evacuate? They assumed that the "faith based community" would pick up the slack. The Bush administration has now had four years since 9/11 to figure out how to cope with large scale disasters. They've spent tens (or hundreds) of billions and the best they can do is "God will provide?"

"No one could have anticipated that the levees would be breached." - GW this AM.

"No one could have imagined that terrorists would fly planes into the World Trade Center." - Condeleeza Rice

Can anybody in the Bush administration imagine what will happen when peak oil hits, and gas goes up to $6.00/gal permanently? I doubt it.

Can they imagine what happens when we have offended so many of our allies that America has only enemies in the world?

Can they imagine that the best Army in the world can be broken by a strategy with no hope for victory, and no exit strategy?

Can they anticipate what will happen when some terrorist sets off a dirty bomb, or an anthrax bomb in NYC, producing ten or twenty million refugees?

Can they imagine what happens when the Earth warms by 2 or 3 degrees C?

There is no reason to believe they can, but if a Bush is in office at the time, we can count on him being on vacation.

Incompetence: Not a Bug but a Feature

Kevin Drum. has links and comments outlining how the Bush administration's deliberate gutting of the Federal Emergency Management Administration was inspired by conservative philosophy. This story predicted just the present type of disaster a year ago. By Contrast

In the 1990s, in planning for a New Orleans nightmare scenario, the federal government figured it would pre-deploy nearby ships with pumps to remove water from the below-sea-level city and have hospital ships nearby, said James Lee Witt, who was FEMA director under President Clinton.
President Bush this morning: "No could have imagined that the levees would be breached."

Condi, a year or so ago: "No one could have imagined that terrorists would fly planes into buildings."

Unfortunately, the world is full of things not dreamt of in their philosophy.