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Showing posts from August, 2006

Mikey Likes It (sort of)

Lubos reads a new paper by Alain Connes and can't immediately dismiss it. Is it possible that the Avenging Angel of String Theory might have found some new (non-stringy) physics he likes?

Stay tuned!

Feynman's TOE and Motl's Convenient UnTruth

Feynman's Lectures contain his description of a theory of everything, written as U=0, where U is a sum of terms for all the physical laws we know (F-ma, etc.) It is, as Lubos Motl says, a sort of joke, since all the information is contained in the individual terms. As Frank Wilczek puts it in Physics Today:
It's the sum of contributions from all the laws of physics:

U = UNewton + UGauss + . . . ,

where, for instance, UNewton = (F ­- ma)^2 and UGauss = (­del · E - rho)^2.

So we can capture all the laws of physics we know, and all the laws yet to be discovered, in this one unified equation. But it's a complete cheat, of course, because there is no useful algorithm for unpacking U, other than to go back to its component parts.

Lubos latest post is a rant attacking Thomas Thiemann's latest paper(hep-th/0608210) in which he claims of Thiemann's "Master Constraint" program that
...Thiemann's biggest discovery is thus exactly equivalent to Feynman's jok…

Looking Up from Down There

"What bothers me," says Donald Rumsfeld, "is how clever our enemy is."

What bothers me is how stupid *our* leaders are. I've been reading Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq , the military history of the Iraq conflict, and it is striking how often Rumsfeld and his band of dolts (Perle, Newt Gingrich, and the others) over-ruled the judgement of military professionals in order to make striking blunders.

I guess if you are looking up from IQ Rumsfeld, even Nasrallah and bin Laden look like Lex Luthor on smart pills.

Trouble with Physics: Woit

Peter Woit has a review of Lee Smolin's new book The Trouble With Physics: The Rise of String Theory, The Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next. It is, as Peter says, not
... a usual sort of review, since I’ll mainly concentrate on discussing the parts of Smolin’s book that I found most interesting, and my perspective here is kind of unique, having spent a lot of time writing about many of the same subjects that he covers.
I will throw in one more excerpt for flavor:
What most fascinated me about Smolin’s book is the personal story behind it. He was a graduate student at Harvard during the same years that I was an undergraduate there, and describes well that place and time. The standard model had just been formulated a few years earlier, and experimental confirmation was pouring in. Many of the people responsible for the standard model were there at Harvard, and there was more than a bit of justifiable pride and arrogance. Smolin was of a philosophical bent, and initially put off…

Science and Civility

The Twentieth Century was the biggest century for physics since Newton, and the revolutionary developments provoked a lot of impassioned debate. Most of this debate was conducted with the utmost civility, most famously the great Einstein - Bohr debate. Probabably not coincidentally, this debate was extremely fruitful in clarifying the foundation of quantum theory.

We are now about 30 years into the dog days of fundamental physics. We have a good old theory (the standard model) which explains almost everything, and some new theories which are yet to explain anything measurable. Meanwhile, scientific debate has become acrimonious.

For Lubos Motl, self-professed reactionary, this is wonderful. He has a post up celebrating a recent speech by Alan Guth denouncing a rival's theory and emphasizing his point with a picture of a monkey.

Let's take reaction back another couple of centuries. In those days, Neil Turok (the victim of Guth's infantile critique) would have had no cho…

How Bad Would it Be

for Iran to get nukes? Well, it would be pretty bad for Israel, that's for sure. It would also be moderately bad for Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan. It could also be pretty bad for the US and every other power that depends on Gulf oil - Europe, China, Japan, etc. Russia might not care too much - what could Iran do, attack them?

So what to do about it?

Sanctions - not likely to work and likely to cause trouble, like $125/bbl oil.

Bomb Iran? Likely to get us chased out of the Middle East. Think $200 oil. Also not likely to work in the long run.

I think that the only real hope is a comprehensive world treaty, with strict rules and strict enforcement.

One slightly crazy idea would be for the traditional great powers (US, China, Russia, France, Britain and maybe India) maintaining a near monopoly on nuclear weapons. Israel and Pakistan might be permitted to keep a few under strict supervision. All other countries would be guaranteed against attack by the great powers. …

More Physics Blogs

Most of the "physics blogs" on my list are really more discursive, but Not Even Wrong is somewhat of an exception. Peter Woit runs a pretty tight ship and likes to keep the subject on physics and math and the comments on topic. It is probably my all around favorite for supplying interesting ideas in physics. The title refers to his Crusade against String Theory, or at least what he considers its excesses, and he has a new book out with the same title. Besides being a good blog, it also gets a very classy group of commenters, who frequently supply more interesting stuff.

Arun Gupta's Musings is mostly not about physics, but he does write occasionally on physics and is a frequent commenter on physics blogs and this one. Mostly I read his blog for the non-physics stuff, especially stuff on Indian history and culture.

Backreaction started out as a joint blog, though it may be just Sabine (Bee) and Stephen now. Bee is more prolific and likes to present long, nicely reason…

The Planet Pluto

By now you probably know that the International Astronomical Union has voted to demote Pluto to dwarf planet status. If you don't like that, and you aren't a member of an IAU member society, feel free to ignore it. I know I will. Nobody delegated the IAU to speak for me. Come to think of it, feel free to ignore it even if you are an IAU member society member.

The whole thing seems a bit silly to me. The planets in our solar system are different enough that each is something of a special case, anyway. When we know more about extrasolar planets, we might be able to make more sensible distinctions.

Clyde Tombaugh's widow admitted to being somewhat upset, but said today that she thought Clyde would have understood. Well maybe. The last time I recall speaking to him we were climbing up a platform in his backyard, more or less into a tree as I recall, to take a look at Halley's comet. He was 84 then, tiny and bent with arthritis, but still spry and intellectually curi…

Some Physics Blogs

I only read a few physics blogs, so my list is something of a random sample. I won't include climate blogs, even though climatology is now more or less a branch of physics, because I will probably treat them later, with a black hats versus white hats theme.

Numero Uno, at least on my list, is Cosmic Variance, which I tend to think of as Sean Carroll and some other people. This is mainly because I started reading Sean's old blog a long time ago, but also because I think he's still the best, though I have to admit that Joanne's battle with the tomato stealing roof rat was pretty cool. Sean's blog was also probably the first science blog I read. Sean blogs about cosmology and lots of other stuff, and is liberal except for being a pretty totalitarian feminist. He has written a nice book on Spacetime and Geometry: An Introduction to General Relativity and videos of some of his excellent lectures are online. Sean is now a research prof at Caltech, which modestly ad…

Enough with the Stupid Questions

I always complain about the stupid questions the press asks the Prez, so I guess I should submit mine:

1) After three and one half years in Iraq, at a cost of thousands of American lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, the security and economic situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate. Isn't this pretty clear evidence that your strategy is faulty and should be changed?

2) For three and a half years your Secretary of Defense has insisted that we had all the troops in Iraq we needed and all that our Generals had asked for. Given that every independent observer in Iraq hears that that is not the case, and given that the Sec Def insisted on invading Iraq with many fewer troops than military planners had asked for, isn't it time to fire him?

3) Robert McNamara has reported that on his trips to postwar Vietnam he is always asked "Hadn't any of you ever read a history book?" Mr. President, have any of you ever read a history book, and if you have, how have you ma…

Jo No Mo

I just listened to Joe Lieberman being interviewed by Wolf what's his name. I can't believe I voted for that sanctimonious hypocrite. All he had was a more coherent presentation of the Bush talking points.

Some Democrats would like to kick him out of the Party or take away his committee assignments. Cooler heads, we may hope, will prevail. If he manages to win in Connecticut and the Democrats pick up five other seats, he will be the most popular and important guy in Washington. That is true to a lesser degree if the Democrats pick up three, four, or six seats. We may not like him, and we had better not trust him, but we can't afford to throw him out yet. Politics is still the art of the possible.

If he loses to Lamont, we can wave goodbye or just quietly forget him.

Perelman

Peter Woit has more links to stories about Grigory Perelman, the mathematician who seems to have proved the Poincare Conjecture. One of them, in The Telegraph, tells a pretty grim story.
A maths genius who won fame last week for apparently spurning a million-dollar prize is living with his mother in a humble flat in St Petersburg, co-existing on her £30-a-month pension, because he has been unemployed since December.

The Sunday Telegraph tracked down the eccentric recluse who stunned the maths world when he solved a century-old puzzle known as the Poincaré Conjecture.

Grigory "Grisha" Perelman's predicament stems from an acrimonious split with a leading Russian mathematical institute, the Steklov, in 2003. When the Institute in St Petersburg failed to re-elect him as a member, Dr Perelman, 40, was left feeling an "absolutely ungifted and untalented person", said a friend. He had a crisis of confidence and cut himself off.

Other friends say he cannot afford to trav…

Christo-fascism

Christo-fascist is my term for anybody who believes that the term Islamo-fascist is not offensive to Muslims as a group. Of course it has no descriptive value or etymological justification, but language precision is hardly the issue here, right? At least nobody ought to be offended, since non-CFs will recognize themselves as non targets and CFs shouldn't find the term offensive.

Kevin Drum mentions that Spencer Ackerman found a different reaction in Michigan:
ISLAMOFASCISM....Spencer Ackerman spent last week visiting the Muslim community in Dearborn, Michigan, and comes back with a news flash for the president about the term "Islamofascist":

Practically everyone I've spoken with in Dearborn, from oncologists to students to clerics, brings up the term unprompted to explain how they feel themselves under collective suspicion from the Justice Department, a tone they feel Bush has set himself by using the phrase.

....Last week in the Weekly Standard, the apparent inventor …

Dark Matter

Sean Carroll has the goods on dark matter. Complete with great pictures, an animation, and links.

Bergman's Review of Not Even Wrong

(Via Not Even Wrong) Aaron Bergman has put up an eleven page review of Peter Woit's book Not Even Wrong. Aaron is a string theorist with an impeccable pedigree (Yale, Princeton, now at UT Austin) and an excellent writer. More importantly, he is well informed and fair minded.

Unsurprisingly, Aaron is not best pleased with Peter's argument. He notes that many of the problems Peter points out are well known to String Theorists and complains that:
Dr. Woit has instead chosen to write a tendentious account providing little guidance as to why, even in the face of such criticism, so many have chosen to work on string theory.
I highly recommend Aaron's review to anyone interested in these issues, and also Peter's response (both linked above).

I do have a couple of comments or questions.

NEW evidently includes the following comment about the Bogandov affair:
So no one in the string group at Harvard can tell if these papers are real or fraudulent. This morning told that they were frau…

When have the Rich Gotten so Much Richer?

Well, right now, for example and dramatically so. Brad DeLong reports but does not fully buy into Paul Krugman's analysis(subscription required). From Krugman:
...I've been studying the long-term history of inequality in the United States. And it's hard to avoid the sense that it matters a lot which political party, or more accurately, which political ideology rules Washington. Since the 1920's there have been four eras of American inequality:

The Great Compression, 1929-1947: The birth of middle-class America....
The Postwar Boom, 1947-1973: An era of widely shared growth....
Stagflation, 1973-1980: Everyone lost ground....
The New Gilded Age, 1980-?: Big gains at the very top, stagnation below. Between 1980 and 2004, real wages in manufacturing fell 1 percent, while the real income of the richest 1 percent -- people with incomes of more than $277,000 in 2004 %u2014 rose 135 percent.
What's noticeable is that except during stagflation, when virtually all Americans…

Lord of the (Tree) Rings

One of the issues in the Hockey Stick Graph climate debate is the reliability of ancient tree rings as temperature proxies. Noted Hockey Stick denier Steve McIntyre wants to make a bet, and James Annan, the original climate prediction bettor, has some details.
Via Backseat driving, I see that Steve McIntyre wants to bet over tree rings. His contention seems to be that they are a very limited or perhaps even useless indicator of temperature:
Do any of the warmers want to bet that European tree rings in the very warm year of 2003 did not show very wide rings such as predicted by the MBH assumption of a linear relationship between temperature and ring width?

Or that Sheep Mountain bristle ring widths in the period 1990-2005 were as wide or wider than projected by a linear model - we can define the model, but essentially it’s the linear assumption of MBH.

I’ll bet either.
Regular readers will be unsurprised that I consider this bet idea to be in principle a good one, although no doubt there…

"The Best Guerrilla Force in the World"

Edward Cody and Molly Moore have this Washington Post story, title as above, on Hizbullah. The Hizbullah training, weapons, and immunity from penetration by Israeli intelligence combine to make it a very formidable fighting force. The extensive tunnels, bunkers, and fortifications clearly also played a key role in its highly effective resistance.
Hezbollah's irregular fighters stood off the modern Israeli army for a month in the hills of southern Lebanon thanks to extraordinary zeal and secrecy, rigorous training, tight controls over the population, and a steady flow of Iranian money to acquire effective weaponry, according to informed assessments in Lebanon and Israel.

"They are the best guerrilla force in the world," said a Lebanese specialist who has sifted through intelligence on Hezbollah for more than two decades and strongly opposes the militant Shiite Muslim movement.

Hezbollah was entrenched in friendly Shiite-inhabited villages and underground bunkers constructe…

I Want My anti-PirB

From Times online, scientists seem to have found a Protein block that makes the old less able to adapt to the new.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School believe that they have found the biological mechanism that makes people become set in their ways as they get older. They have identified a protein that stops new neural connections forming in adult brains.
...
The results of the study, which are published in the journal Science Express, indicated that the brains of adult mice that lacked PirB retained the same rewiring ability of much younger brains. Without PirB to hold them back, the old mice were, in effect, able to learn new tricks...

The great thing about the new protein we have found is that it is the same for everyone. If you could make a drug to target this, it would be like a skeleton key which could be used on anyone.”

My progressive stupidification with age is a huge annoyance.

Republo-Dolts

I hope that none of you non-doltish Republicans were offended by the title. I wasn't talking about you, I was just talking about the Republicans who are dolts.

Linguist Geoffrey Nunberg takes a close look at "Islamo-fascism" in an LA Times article:
IT WASN'T THE first time President Bush had described the United States as at war with "Islamic fascists." But coming in his remarks about the arrests of two dozen terror suspects in Britain last week, the phrase signaled that the administration was shopping for new language to defend its policies at a time when the evocations of the "war on terror" don't seem to stem rising doubts about the wisdom of "staying the course" in Iraq.

Hence the appeal of using "Islamo-fascism," as people often call it, which links the current conflict to images from the last "just war": Nazi tanks rolling into Poland and France, spineless collaborators sapping the national will, Winston Churc…

Motl's Dark Materials

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Always eager to rush in where the wise might fear to tread, Lubos has this post on the declining representation of Blacks in elite New York City science schools. After opening with an improbably ironic tale of happy Darkies down on the Czech plantation, he presents his explanation: genetic inferiority of IQ. I suppose that's also the reason for even larger (as a percentage of the whole) declines in the number of whites. (Graph from This NewYork Times Story)

I don't want to get into that particular can of worms, but he does have a link to the Wikipedia article on Race and intelligence. There is quite a lot of information, discussion, and controversy there, but a couple of items caught my eye. One is that the most recent large scale adult IQ comparison appears to have been done a quarter century ago. Statistics beyond racial means are very hard to come by. A second interesting comparison with more recent data is the GRE scores. Asians outperform all other categorized groups, bu…

Our Dark Materials

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John Baez has some information/speculation on the discovery of hard evidence of dark matter on This week's finds number 238. A couple of clusters of galaxies seems to have collided about 4 billion light-years away. The x-ray image above shows a smaller cluster moving to the right trailing a shock wave.


Baez's explanation:
Markevitch and company have been studying the "Bullet Cluster", a bunch of galaxies that has a small bullet-shaped sub-cluster zipping away from the center at 4,500 kilometers per second. Here's a picture of it from the above paper:


To help you understand this picture a bit: the official name of the Bullet Cluster is 1E0657-56. The "exposure" for this X-ray photograph taken by Chanda was apparently 0.5 million seconds - 140 hours! The distance scale shown, 0.5 megaparsecs, is about 1.6 million light years. The cluster itself has a redshift z = 0.3, meaning its light has wavelengths stretched by a factor of 1.3. Under currently popular id…

A Modest Proposal

Vicious Mama has a radical proposal for Middle East peace. You need to check out the link for details, but mainly it involves moving Israel to the American Southwest. Based on her Sitemeter map, it has drawn interest from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and several other Muslim countries, not to mention the US, Canada, and Russia.

She didn't precisely suggest a location, so I have a suggestion: How about that roughly triangular patch of Texas bounded by the Jordan River (formerly known as the Rio Grande) and the line from El Paso to the tip of the big bend. This would include the nine big counties from El Paso in the West to Terrell. They don't fit that well with the rest of Texas anyway - some of them even vote Democratic.

El Paso, of course, would become the New Jerusalem. It would be a big confidence boost to EP which is always the little brother of TX politics and economics anyway. The climate shouldn't be too different from Israel.

Best of all, next Passover, when som…

Well, Duh!

Even hard core conservatives are starting to grasp the obvious. Joe Scarborough gets a bit shrill:
For the past six years George W. Bush has been the target of ridicule from liberal circles. But now, instead of laughing at Democrats’ ill-directed arrogance, Republicans are quietly joining the left in questioning the President’s intellectual prowess.

The biggest knock on Bush’s brain is his lack of intellectual curiosity. Former administration officials still close to the White House will tell you Mr. Bush detests dissent, embraces a narrow world view and is intellectually incurious.

Worse for this White House is the fact that George W. Bush has daily smackdowns with the English language and the English language usually wins.

His gaffes are funnier than most SNL skits. But more disturbing are his rambling, disjointed press conferences like the one he held earlier this week.

Friends and foes alike agree that George W. Bush is one political figure who gets worse with age. Look back at his pe…

Poincare Conjecture

If you are at all a math fan, or just interested in the vagaries of human nature, take a look at Dennis Overbye's New York Times story on the Poincare Conjecture and the elusive mathematician who proved it after 100 years.
Grisha Perelman, where are you?

Three years ago, a Russian mathematician by the name of Grigory Perelman, a k a Grisha, in St. Petersburg, announced that he had solved a famous and intractable mathematical problem, known as the Poincaré conjecture, about the nature of space.

After posting a few short papers on the Internet and making a whirlwind lecture tour of the United States, Dr. Perelman disappeared back into the Russian woods in the spring of 2003, leaving the world’s mathematicians to pick up the pieces and decide if he was right.

Now they say they have finished his work, and the evidence is circulating among scholars in the form of three book-length papers with about 1,000 pages of dense mathematics and prose between them.

It looks like he has indeed done i…

Two Lies and a ?

One reason conservatives and other people spend so much time talking past each other is that they live in separate universes. From my point of view, that is because conservatives believe so many things that just aren't so. This isn't necessarily an accident. If you are the sort of person who listens to and believes the main stream media, our elected leaders, and even a bit of the wingnut media, you will hear and believe a lot of lies.

I have absolutely no brief to defend Iran's President Ahmadinejad, but I am very concerned that my country not be led into another war through a campaign of lies and propaganda. To that end, let me expose some lies about Ahmadinejad that are almost universally believed in the US. It's very easy to distort the remarks of someone who speaks a language few Americans understand.

(1)Ahmadinejad is a Holocaust denier. This one is everywhere, including Wikipedia. It's is also a total distortion of what he said, which had the following point: I…

Scientific American Reviews Smolin and Woit

George Johnson leads off Scientific American's September book review page with a joint review of Peter Woit's Not Even Wrong and Lee Smolin's Trouble with Physics. It's a book review, not a critical evaluation, so Lubos and the Stringy Legion will doubtless be reduced to apoplexy. Johnson does make clear that Peter and Lee are serious thinkers with serious points.

George Allen -> Racist

The Washington Post has this story on the "makkakah" incident. They coyly mention that:
In some European cultures, macaca is also considered a racial slur against African immigrants
They fail to note that it's also common on American White Supremacy sites as a slur against Blacks, Asians, and Arabs. George Allen seems a lot more familiar with the vocabulary of the Aryan Brotherhood than the Washington Post is.

George Allen Uses the M-Word

A few of us more sheltered types were a bit puzzled when Senator George Allen (R-VA) singled out an American of Asian extraction at a campaign rally and called him a "makkaka."

From Josh Marshall:
Sen. George Allen (R-VA) singles out Indian-American Webb volunteer S.R. Sidarth at a campaign event, calls him "Macaca" and 'welcomes' him to America. "Lets give a welcome to Macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia," said Allen.
Josh notes that Jeffrey Feldman did the research:
There has been some question as to what this word 'macaca' means, so I took some time to fire off some searches on Google.

In the remainder of this post I will list key findings under headings of the search terms plugged into google.

'Macaca' or 'macaque' is a nasty racial epithet alright. It is often used by American white supremacists to describe black people. In Belgium, it is a racial slur for 'dirty arab.' Could this be …

Iran

By many accounts, Bush and Cheney are eager for war with Iran. Sometime in November, Iran will give its answer as to whether it will get rid of its uranium enrichment capability. It is widely predicted that it will say no.

A lot may depend on what has happened in the Congressional elections. If the Republicans hang on, another, much grimmer, could be in the cards. If Democrats take back one or both houses, it might be tougher for Cheney to pursue his path to $500/bbl oil and world chaos.

Royal Blood

I've been doing a little geneological research, and it seems that I have some Royal Blood. So does everybody else, says Matt Crenson of The Washington Post in this article.
Actress Brooke Shields has a pretty impressive pedigree -- hanging from her family tree are Catherine de Medici and Lucrezia Borgia, Charlemagne and El Cid, William the Conqueror and King Harold II, vanquished by William at the Battle of Hastings.

Shields also descends from five popes, a whole mess of early New England settlers, and the royal houses of virtually every European country. She counts Renaissance pundit Niccolo Machiavelli and conquistador Hernando Cortes as ancestors.

What is it about Brooke Shields? Well, nothing special -- at least genealogically.

Even without a documented connection to a notable forebear, experts say, the odds are virtually 100 percent that every person on Earth is descended from one royal personage or another.

"Millions of people have provable descents from medieval monarchs,&…

Bad Vibrations

Peter Woit has links to some String Landscape articles here. He is especially interested in Washington Taylor's inaugural talk (video here) at the Santa Barbara (KITP) semester-long program on String Theory phenomenology.
Taylor’s talk was quite remarkable, very explicitly going over exactly how bad the current situation is for efforts to get any prediction at all out of string theory. There was a lot of discussion with the audience, and much nervous laughter. Unfortunately I found some of Gross’s comments hard to hear. Taylor explained that after spending ten years himself working on trying to better understand what string theory is (he worked in string field theory), he doesn’t see any realistic prospects for significant progress on this problem during the next ten years. He listed the basic problems as the lack of a non-perturbative definition in anything but special, non-physical backgrounds, the inability to do even perturbative calculations in the kind of Ramond-Ramond back…

Iran Preview?

Seymour Hersh has another great article in The New Yorker, proving once again that he is our best journalist. It is a multi-faceted exam of the American role in Israel's current war. I will extract a few bits:
The Bush Administration, however, was closely involved in the planning of Israel’s retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel’s security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preëmptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.

Israel, of course, had it's own reasons, but Olmert and his Defense Minister, both lacking military background might have been a bit credulous in accepting US (and IAF) theories of how the war co…

What is Fascism?

My post on "Islamofacism" provoked a number of opinions as to what "fascism" is, so I thought I ought to look into a bit of history. Aside from being a general term of disapprobation, what is facism? Wikipedia has a nice history and some variations on the various definitions that have been popular here.

Fascism is a radical totalitarian political philosophy that combines elements of corporatism, authoritarianism, extreme nationalism, militarism, anti-anarchism, anti-communism and anti-liberalism.

Hmmm. So far I can't see anything Lubos would disagree with, but how well does it fit the various Islamic terrorists, insurgencies, and other violent sectarian groups? How about a little table?

Characteristic............. LM.......... bin Lad..........Hizb

corporatism .................Yes..........No................No
authoritarianism ...........Yes .........Not really........?
extreme nationalism...... Some.......No.................Some
militarism .....................Yes...…

Empty Haircut

One ungrammatical little tic Republicans have adopted is referring to the Democratic Party the "Democrat Party." They do it because they know it irritates Democrats and other people with positive IQs.

The CBS program Face the Nation had some empty haircut sitting in for Bob Shieffer today. He had a relentlessly hostile interview with Ned Lamont (consisting purely of Rove-Lieberman talking points) this morning, which, however, Lamont handled very well.

Empty Haircut really managed to piss me off, though, with his repeated references to the "Democrat" party. Lamont managed to ignore this provocation, but I wonder if he really should have. What if he had just politely interrupted, pointed out to Haircut that there is no "Democrat" Party, that the word "Democrat" is not even a f*#king adjective, and ask him to stop being a witless Republican shill for the rest of the interview?

Would anybody have been offended?

Crawford Implausible

The Prez has been reported to have read Camus's The Stranger as well as the new Oppenheimer biography American Promethius at Crawford this year.

Yeah. Right. The same President who couldn't be bothered to read his one page daily intelligence summary. The same President who spent several months of intensive Bible study on three New Testament chapters - only funny thing, afterwards the leader of the group was clueless about their content.

Maybe Condi is summarizing them for him. Since as she can't land at any Middle Eastern city but Jerusalem, she may have some time on her hands. Between contractions in the birth of the new Middle East.

A Reader Asks

Speaking of doctored up photos I notice that is one story you've let slide under your radar. Hmmm?

I never found the story interesting enough to read, and I do have a job, a life, and other interests, but - since you asked, I did read up in this story in The Jerusalem Post - no Islamofacist outlet that.

My conclusion: A truly nothing story. Some guy put a little extra smoke in a scene of smoke rising from Beirut, multiplies the number of flares dropped by an Israeli Jet, and some woman is shown in two different pictures wailing about the ruins of her house. Oh yeah, and some injured guy gets up and later manages to walk away from the blasted remains of some building. The guy who altered the picture was stupid and got fired for it.

There are plenty of real pictures of ruined buildings, dead children, and blasted bridges, so what difference does this guy's misbehavior make. It sold him a few more picture initially, then got him fired, but it doesn't change our picture of th…

The "I-F" Word

One of the stupidest and most destructive memes propagated by the right wing slime machine is this "Islamofascist" word. Nothing could be more calculated to 1) promote bin Laden's "war of civilizations" idea and 2) bring every Nazi crawling out from under their rocks and decaying logs.

They are crawling out, by the way. I had to ban a Nazi from this site. Lubos (who naturally is irresistably attracted to the word as he is to any other bit of right wing nutjobbery) has a commenter - wait, let me rephrase that in the form of another wingnut meme recently adopted by LM - one "member of the Reference Frame community" is promoting "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," while another is advocating nukeing all the major Muslim cities of the world, gleefully toting up the hundreds of millions of casualties.

Counterintelligence

While the British were breaking up an al Quaeda bomb plot, Bush was cutting funds for bomb detection technology.

Meanwhile, Bush counterintelligence officials were also busy:
The two top officials of Counterintelligence Field Activity at the Defense Department resigned this week amid investigations into their agency’s classified contracts with a businessman who has pleaded guilty to bribing department officials and Representative Randy Cunningham.

From David D. Kirkpatricks story in the New York Times

That Figures

From Yahoo: Bush seeks political gains from foiled plot
And
The London conspiracy is "a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation," the president said on a day trip to Wisconsin.

"It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America," he said. "We've taken a lot of measures to protect the American people. But obviously we still aren't completely safe."

His remarks came a day after the White House orchestrated an exceptionally aggressive campaign to tar opposition Democrats as weak on terrorism, knowing what Democrats didn't: News of the plot could soon break.

Nice Guys All

I just saw a short TV segment on several of the 9/11 terrorist hijackers. They had interviews with several women who had known them. They all reported cheerful, kind men.

I think maybe a lot of women are spectacularly bad judges of male character.

There He Goes Again

George Bush, in reaction to the terrorist plot uncovered in London:
this nation is at war with Islamic fascists.

Can we imagine language much more shaped to convince every Muslim in the World that they are in Bush's gunsights? Bush, like bin Laden, seems determined to push for a so-called war of civilizations.

If, as seems likely, this turns out to be an al Quaeda plot, it will be more evidence of Bush's folly in deciding to let bin Laden escape while he plotted his folly in Iraq.

Having calamitously failed almost every challenge of his Presidency, Bush now seems bent on pursuing some sort of wider war, perhaps hoping this will allow him to cling longer to impunity. Don't be surprised if he tries to trump up this plot into some kind of excuse for war with Iran. Evidence of an Iranian connection, no matter how implausible, is likely to be conjured up.

I would be extremely surprised if there turns out to be any real Iranian involvement, though we should have no doubts about …

Jo Jo

Josh Marshall on Senator Lieberman.
I'm sorry. I just don't see it.

Mike Allen has a piece in Time arguing that Republicans are thanking their lucky stars and Democrats are shaking in their boots because of the cudgel Ned Lamont's victory in Connecticut has given them for November...

The heart of the matter here is that everyone knows Joe in DC. They like him. They think he's a nice guy, which he is. His staff likes him, which also makes him seem like a nice guy. He's schmoozed the city for two decades.

But really he's just a pol who ignored his constituents, went into serious denial about a major foreign policy disaster, was more lockstep with the president's non-policy than many Republicans, and got bounced by his constituents.

Reader Service Page

Reading this NYT story about great Czech beer (The Ultimate Beer Run in the Czech Republic ), I was reminded that Lubos's dot and Wolfgang's dot are largely superposed on my Sitemeter map. You can hardly be more than a couple or three hours apart. So why don't you guys get together, drink a few of those exquisite Czech beers, and take turns berating global warming, LQG, and the Pig. I'd love to be there in person.

Odd News

(via Drudge)
From an even more unlikely combination of sources. David Keyes, reporting in the Jerusalem Post:
A US Navy sailor, Ariel J. Weinmann, is suspected of spying for Israel and has been held in prison for four months, according to an article published Monday in the Saudi daily Al-Watan. It reported that Weinmann is being held at a military base in Virginia on suspicion of espionage and desertion.

According to the navy, Weinmann was apprehended on March 26 "after it was learned that he had been listed as a deserter by his command." Though initial information released by the navy makes no mention of it, Al-Watan reported that he was returning from an undisclosed "foreign country." American sources close to the Defense Department told Al-Watan that Israel was the country in question. ...

The veracity of Al-Watan's claim that Weinmann is suspected of spying for Israel remains in question, and military and Pentagon spokesmen are remaining tightlipped. A public…

El Nino

We seem to have entered a (so far)weak El Nino period. This decreases the probability that this will be a severe hurricane year, and improves the odds for my prediction that 2006 would be the hottest on record.

Juan Cole on Bush

Bush, Islamic Fascism and the Christians of Jounieh

Bush is on vacation, his favorite place to be during a major crisis. The August retreat is the only open admission he makes that Cheney and Rumsfeld are actually running the country, and he just doesn't need to be in his office.
It's a long, angry article, mourning the murder of a country, and I will only further quote the end:
The idea that the whole Eastern Mediterranean had to be polluted, that the Christian Lebanese economy had to be destroyed for the next decade or two, that 900,000 persons had to be rendered homeless, that a whole country had to be pounded into rubble because some Lebanese Shiites voted for Hizbullah in the last election, putting 12 in parliament, is obscene. Bush's glib ignorance is destroying our world. Our children will suffer for it, and perhaps our grandchildren after them.I don't know that there is anything to Cole's prediction, but if it does come true, much of the world will believe we …

Ambivalent Zionist

Josh Marshall has a few posts up on in response to readers who wondered why he wasn't talking about the Middle East. His reply is typically illuminating and insightful.
I'm hearing two streams of conversation about the war -- two whole worlds of conversation and debate, you might say, often as distinct from each other as night and day.

One is the one we all see every day in the mainstream news -- the major papers and news networks and so on. And then there's another -- one I'm exposed to largely, but not exclusively, through email we get at TPM.

And it's this latter conversation that's engaged my attention, rattled me and intensified and deepened my belief in Zionism.

There's a whole detailed and after a while sterile debate about what sort of criticism of Israel amonts to 'anti-Semitism' and what doesn't. Suffice it to say that many of these emails have breathed a tone of hostility and double-standard toward Israel specifically and sometimes Jew…

Risky Business

It's getting more dangerous to criticize Lubos. Someone unnamed evidently took offense at one of his posts [about some recently arrested billionaire] and asked other bloggers to stop linking to him. Lubos, it seems, is now contemplating the offender's demise. From remarks in his blog:
But I think - and I hope - that you will be killed before you succeed to do all these things. Good luck. ;-)
I'm no lawyer, but I fear that Lubos may have gone over the line from wacko to potentially criminal here. Contemplating someones murder is not a crime, but telling them that you think and hope they will be killed sure sounds like one to me.

Deal or No Deal?

The US and France have agreed on a UN ceasefire resolution, an agreement hailed as a victory for the US and Israel. None of the combatants has yet accepted the deal, and it's pretty clear that real issues are concentrated in an envisaged second resolution. Sheryl Gay Stolberg, writing in The New York Times notes:
The draft resolution called for a truce, asked the current United Nations peacekeeping force to monitor the border area, and laid out a plan for a permanent cease-fire and political settlement. The text called for immediate cessation of all attacks by Hezbollah, and of offensive military operations by Israel.

But it did not include a prisoner exchange or require Israel to immediately withdraw from Lebanon...

Without the second resolution, I don't expect much to happen:
The accord envisaged a second resolution, to create a new international force to patrol a zone to between the Blue Line at the Lebanon-Israel border and the Litani River to keep it free of all military …

Sound Retreat

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel and Democratic Senator Chris Dodd were on the tube this talking about how we get out of Iraq. Even the White House is now floating rumors that "if a civil war breaks out" we might withdraw. It's obvious that a low to medium intensity civil is already underway, and that the more security functions we turn over to the Iraqis, the more intense the civil war has become.

Hagel repeatedly said "There are no good options left." He sees the war as lost. Dodd doesn't see how we can continue to send American soldiers to Iraq to serve as referrees in a civil war.

George Bush started this war, fought it with incredible ineptitude, and now appears to have lost it. We will be dealing with the consequences of this disaster for decades.

There is an eerie similarity between this disaster and the Vietnam war - the only competition for greatest foreign policy disaster in recent American history. The most discouraging thing for me was that the…

WW III

Juan Cole presents but does not endorse a theory for why Israel destroyed Lebanon. In this scenario, it really is the opening salvo of WW III, and Iran is not the enemy, but the unwilling bride. The real strategic rivalry is between the US and China and India.
The wholesale destruction of all of Lebanon by Israel and the US Pentagon does not make any sense. Why bomb roads, roads, bridges, ports, fuel depots in Sunni and Christian areas that have nothing to do with Shiite Hizbullah in the deep south? And, why was Hizbullah's rocket capability so crucial that it provoked Israel to this orgy of destruction? Most of the rockets were small katyushas with limited range and were highly inaccurate. They were an annoyance in the Occupied Golan Heights, especially the Lebanese-owned Shebaa Farms area. Hizbullah had killed 6 Israeli civilians since 2000. For this you would destroy a whole country?

It doesn't make any sense.

Moreover, the Lebanese government elected last year was pro-Ame…

A Small Right Wing Conspiracy

Writing in tommorow's Haaretz, Daniel Levy takes a close look at one of the most successful and calamitously misguided conspiracies in modern history. In Ending the neoconservative nightmare he looks at the history of the so-called neoconservative machinations in the Middle East.
In 1996 a group of then opposition U.S. policy agitators, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, presented a paper entitled "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" to incoming Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The "clean break" was from the prevailing peace process, advocating that Israel pursue a combination of roll-back, destabilization and containment in the region, including striking at Syria and removing Saddam Hussein from power in favor of "Hashemite control in Iraq." The Israeli horse they backed then was not up to the task.

They had to wait to get their chance.
Ten years later, as Netanyahu languishes in the opposition, as head of a small L…

No God but Strings

Lubos Motl, writing in a comment on Backreaction:
...in string theory, the equivalence principle is a derived fact.
Joe Polchinski, writing in String Theory, volume I, page 115:
Because of the force from dilaton exchange, there is no equivalence principle, and so no way to single out a preferred metric.
From Wikipedia:
String theory, supergravity and even quintessence, for example, seem to violate the weak equivalence principle because they contain many light scalar fields with long Compton wavelengths. These fields should generate fifth forces and variation of the fundamental constants. There are a number of mechanisms that have been suggested by physicists to reduce these violations of the equivalence principle to below observable levels.

There seems to be a contrary view.

Trouble with Physics

Bee at the always interesting backreaction has long review of (a manuscript version of) Lee Smolin's new book Trouble with Physics. It's not just a String bashing book, she says. She claims to be rather critical of the book, or maybe she was just critical to Smolin in person, but I thought she put the book in a rather positive light. She also includes a short interview with Smolin.

I will buy the book, but then I was always going to anyway.