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Showing posts from November, 2006

CO2 vs. the Supremes

Several States have sued the EPA to try to get it to regulate CO2 emissions under the clean air act. Now I firmly believe that CO2 emissions constitute an environmental threat and that they should be regulated, but I don't think this is the right approach.

The CAA 1990 runs to hundreds of pages and lists many pollutants with detailed regulations, but CO2 is not among them. Moreover, most of the pollutants addressed have a rather different mode of creating harm than excess CO2 does, and consequently it can make sense to set "safe" levels for them.

The sensible thing to do is to hold hearings, discuss and debate the science, and pass a new law intended specifically to deal with the question of greenhouse gases and global warming. That's the way it's supposed to work in a democratic republic. The Supreme Court has no expertise in the issue, and is not designed decide the kinds of tradeoffs required here.

Let's regulate CO2 emissions, but let's do it rig…

Stop Picking on Lindsay Lohan!

Lindsay Lohan wrote a letter of condolence to Robert Altman's family, which for some reason was publicized. Since then, Matt "the serial slimeball" Drudge and a lot of others have been picking on her. OK, so it's not a masterpiece of grammar, spelling, or literary form, but it feels real and heartfelt. I'm sure her publicist could have written a better letter (assuming her publicist didn't write this one!), but what the hell is everybody picking on?

I don't know much about her, and have only seen a couple of movies of hers, but she's clearly a cute and talented kid. So back the hell off! That goes double for the super slimes of page six.

Six Tent Poles of Wisdom

Sean Carroll of Cosmic Variance reports that New Scientist asked 70 noted scientists for pithy predictions of great discoveries in the next 50 years. Sean was among the 70, whilst the Pig, of course, was not, but I thought I would offer up a few of my own anyway.
Astrobiology: We make contact with intelligent life in the universe. It tells us to buzz off.
Astrophysics & Cosmology: The nature of dark matter is explained. It turns out to be responsible for that feeling of pressure you get with a bad headache.
Biology: Artificial life with a new DNA code is created from scratch in the laboratory. It quickly outcompetes and displaces all of the old-fashioned, natural kind.
Neuroscience: Consciousness is explained. Nobody can follow the explanation.
Mathematics: Further research into the foundations of mathematics reveals that 2+3 = 7. Fortunes are made revising textbooks.
Theology: After a long hiatus, God resumes conversations with mankind in a weekly radio show. He reveals th…

2+2=?

From Kevin Phillip's Wealth and Democracy:
In 1930, financier Bernard Baruch, an embarrassed Pollyanna, recalled that "In the lamentable era of the 'New Economics' culminating in 1929, even in the presence of dizzily spiraling prices, if we had all continuously repeated 'two and two still make four,' much of the evil might have been averted.

A(nother) Modest Proposal

Iraq's per capita GDP is about $1800. Since our invasion, we have expended a bit over $10,000 per capita, and even if we leave tomorrow, our total costs for the adventure will probably approach $20,000 per Iraqi.

The current sectarian struggle in Iraq is less about religion than it is about power and resources. Most of the oil is in Shia or Kurdish areas, and the Sunni's rightly fear getting locked out. Here is my proposed solution. It's intended to be Milton Friedman inspired and is guaranteed to be fair and balanced. Assign all of the proven Iraqi oil reserves to one (or a few) corporations, and then give one share of stock in each corporation to each Iraqi citizen.

A moratorium should be imposed on trading the stock for an interim period, and dividends would be paid starting immediately. Initially, the dividends would be financed by the US and based on the projected return at current market rates if it weren't for the war. Managers would have a couple of year…

Getting So Much Better All the Time

Can't wait for global warming? Maybe it can be arranged a little sooner, rather than later. According to this BBC story, CO2 buildup in the atmosphere is accelerating.

The rise in humanity's emissions of carbon dioxide has accelerated sharply, according to a new analysis.

The Global Carbon Project says that emissions were rising by less than 1% annually up to the year 2000, but are now rising at 2.5% per year.

It says the acceleration comes mainly from a rise in charcoal consumption and a lack of new energy efficiency gains.

The global research network released its latest analysis at a scientific meeting in Australia.

Dr Mike Rapauch of the Australian government's research organisation CSIRO, who co-chairs the Global Carbon Project, told delegates that 7.9 billion tonnes (gigatonnes, Gt) of carbon passed into the atmosphere last year. In 2000, the figure was 6.8Gt.

"From 2000 to 2005, the growth rate of carbon dioxide emissions was more than 2.5% per year, whereas in…

Should I Have a Lubotomy?

Some of you may have heard much of this before. Lubos Motl was both the inspiration and the reason for my blogging career. I started commenting on his blog in reaction to his rather strident review of a book at Amazon, and I started a blog when he started deleting some of my comments. Since that time I have often posted on topics that he has initiated, and he has on a few occasions posted on topics I initiated. He even had a post purporting to reveal my semi-secret identity.

Television producer Roy Huggins once said that he and actor James Garner had a "love hate relationship. I love him and he hates me." I wouldn't exactly say that I love Lubos, but I do retain a certain affection for that irrepressible and ingenious Czech, and it grieves me that his outbursts seem to have damaged his reputation. Once upon a time, there seemed to be more light-heartedness to even his harsh critiques. Lately, he seems to be more bitter.

He continues to post clever, amusing, outrage…

String Theory Progress

The New York Times is reporting dramatic new progress by physicists working in string theory in this story by Andrew C. Revkin. Suprisingly enough, the keys to progress involved not Geometric Langlands but graphite and balsa wood.

Go figure.

Is it too Late to Pick a Winner?

Now that more or less everybody has admitted that Iraq is in a state of civil war, with the different factions inside and outside the government in open war with each other, does anybody have any idea what US troops are doing there now? They aren't preventing violence and they aren't holding the country together. Sunni's and Shiites are apparently both confident of winning the showdown once the US gets out of the way. Is it too late for the US to pick a winner in the upcoming war and try to mitigate the inevitable slaughter?

Probably so. More or less all Iraqi's are united in their hatred of the US, so if we pick a winner we will be blamed for all the crimes it commits in suppressing the opposition. If anyone consolidates power, they will turn all their efforts to expelling us. Moreover, anyone we side with will quickly lose most of their internal support.

Is it too late for a political deal? Probably. The Sunnis might still settle for a fair share of any oil re…

Hot and Cold

Lubos Motl has another global warming critique posted. He imagines that he has found a contradiction:
“Also, just like the carbon dioxide increases the infrared absorption in the troposphere, its increased concentration in the higher layer, the stratosphere, is - on the contrary - expected to increase the ability of this layer to emit energy and to cool down. Maybe.

I hope that it is not difficult for the reader to understand that the global warming theory actually predicts cooling for most of the volume of the atmosphere. There's really no serious catch here. ;-. Maybe.


Motl thinks he has scored a debating point here, but in fact he has failed to understand some elementary physics. The warming of the surface (and lower troposphere) and the cooling of the stratosphere both naturally follow from the increased infrared absorption coefficient of the atmosphere. As every physics student should know, increasing the absorption coefficient leads to an exactly proportional increase in the …

Secrets of Failure

I wasted an hour or two this morning listening to the Sunday AM talk. An array of politicians and generals seem (finally!) to have absorbed the lesson that things are going very badly. All, though, and especially the military guys, keep making the same idiotic mistake: thinking that some kind of "standing up" an Iraqi army is a solution, as if some amount of training and equipment is suddenly going to make these soldiers loyal to a government that doesn't really even exist. We don't even have a puppet government there, merely a figurehead, and a collection of interests pursuing their own mutually hostile agendas. Oddly enough, the two who came closest to understanding this were two of the right-wing crackheads who got us into this mess (George Will and Bill Kristol).

Nobody involved seems to have a clue as to what makes for a stable state, especially a stable state in a land bitterly divided. Let me just mention a few basics: a) a monopoly on the use of force, …

Hard Times Coming on the River

The river De Nial, I mean. Climate denial, as in denying the evidence of human caused global warming, in particular. Climate denial has been a minor industry for the past decade or two, funded by those with a big financial stake in continued unchecked emission of carbon dioxide - the fossil fuel energy industry. The way it works is simple: if your center, institute, or web site produces denialist reports and other propaganda, the oil and energy companies might funnel you some money. Junkscience.com is a prominent example, but other right wing "think" tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute do a bit of climate denial on the side.

This gravy train appears to be derailing though. The true believers of climate denial are psuedo-religious in their convictions, but Exxon Mobil is run by hard-headed realists. They can read the handwriting on the wall and will try to adapt. From Steve Mufson and Janet Eilperin's Washington Post story:
While the …

Perils of Popularization

Leonard Mlodinow is a physicist turned writer who has written an autobiographical sketch called Feynman's Rainbow as well as some Star Trek screenplays. He has also written a math popularization called Euclid's Window : The Story of Geometry from Parallel Lines to Hyperspace about which a number of people, including Brian Greene and Edward Witten, have found nice things to say.

I read Feynman's Rainbow, and liked it, especially for it's evocation of the ambience of Caltech in the Feynman and Gell-Mann era, but I haven't read Euclid's Window. Robert Langlands has though and you might say his opening sentence telegraphs his opinion:
This is a shallow book on deep matters, about which the author knows next to nothing.
The review in the AMS Notices is long, erudite, passionate and boundlessly hostile. He clearly thinks Mlodinow gets almost everything wrong, but what really angers him is that (he claims):
...[the book] is certainly thoroughly dishonest, but not to …

Reality Nibbles?

The dollar has been plunging, hinting that the World may not be willing to let us run up our credit cards forever. Is this the long prophesied "major correction" taking hold, or just a financial jitter? There are certainly hints that some of our major creditors are getting less willing to let us run our tab:
These concerns were heightened by comments from Wu Xiaoling, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, indicating her unease at the rapid build-up of $1,000bn of reserves in China. She said Asian foreign exchange reserves were at risk from the dollar’s fall, although she stopped short of indicating that China was about to stop adding to its pile of reserves.

“The dollar is coming under real pressure and this looks like the beginning of a sustained move,” said Ian Stannard, strategist at BNP Paribas.

Every US War so far has produced a sharp inflationary spike. The most painful flavor is stagflation, when the economy flounders even as prices rise. The Captain has tu…

State Sponsored Terror

The recent assassinations of former KGB and FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko and crusading journalist Anna Politkovskayax were carried out with a contemptuous audacity that suggests the Putin's Russia now believes it can murder with impunity. In particular, the high-tech murder of Litvinenko was clearly the work of a sophisticated technological state. The obviousness of the crime suggests that Putin had in mind not merely terror, but a calculated gesture of contempt toward Bush and Blair.

When GW took office, Russia was still crippled by its weak economy. High oil prices, and Russia's control of much of the World's natural gas, have changed that. So has Bush's decision to fritter away American power, lives, and money in Iraq.

Polonium 210 looks like a good way of saying: "This message approved by the FSB." According to Wikipedia, Polonium 210 is about 250 billion times as toxic as cyanide per unit mass.

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble...

A US and British team of scientists has found that we aren't all as much alike under the nuclear membrane as had previously been thought. It seems that we all have multiple copies of some genes, but not necessarily the same number of copies. From The Independent:
The findings mean that instead of humanity being 99.9 per cent identical, as previously believed, we are at least 10 times more different between one another than once thought - which could explain why some people are prone to serious diseases.

The studies published today have found that instead of having just two copies of each gene - one from each parent - people can carry many copies, but just how many can vary between one person and the next.

The studies suggest variations in the number of copies of genes is normal and healthy. But the scientists also believe many diseases may be triggered by an abnormal loss or gain in the copies of some key genes.

Some of the mutiply copied genes appear to be related to disease and re…

Lords of Folly

Kevin Drum says:
FOLLY....Richard Clarke on Iraq:

In The March of Folly, Barbara Tuchman documented repeated instances when leaders persisted in disastrous policies well after they knew that success was no longer an available outcome. They did so because the personal consequences of admitting failure would be very high. So they postponed the disastrous end to their policy adventures, hoping for a deus ex machina or to eventually shift the blame. There is no need to do that now. Everyone already knows who is to blame. It is time to stop the adventure, lower our sights, and focus on America's core interests. And that means withdrawal of major combat units.
That is about as succinct a description of our current situation as I've read anywhere. Read the whole thing for the longer version of his argument for withdrawal.

The worst thing about Iraq is that the President continues to spin fairy tales about the situation. Scarier still is the possibility that he might believe them. Witho…

Who to Blame?

OK, so this is a rhetorical question, for me anyway. Juan Cole explains GW's role in the ongoing Lebanese debacle. A lot is summarized by this bit:
So obviously there will be trouble about this. Everything Bush touches turns to ashes, bombings, assassinations. He doesn't know how to compromise and he doesn't know how to influence his neo-colonial possessions so that they can compromise.

The net result of Bush's blunders has been a vast increase in Syria and Iran's influence - ironically coming just at the time that most think we have no choice but to try and enlist their help to clean up the mess W made in Iraq. If they choose to cooperate, the price they will demand will be high. Israel quite probably already regrets its embrace of and by Bush.

Constituentcy

War profitteering has a long and not particularly honorable history in the US as well as elsewhere. The first American millionaires earned their money in the Revolutionary war by either privateering or selling supplies to Washington's Army. (See, e.g., Wealth and Democracy by Kevin Phillips) During the war, the Continental Congress and the 13 Colonies had contracted large debts, which having gone unpaid for a long time, lost a lot of value. Friends of Alexander Hamilton, our first Secretary of the Treasury, hired agents to scour the countryside, buying the instruments of debt for as little as ten cents on the dollar. Hamilton then managed to get the newly formed United States to assume and pay all these debts at full value. This led to a new crop of millionaires.

The taxes to pay these debts were excise taxes levied mainly on the whisky makers of Pennsylvania, which led to the first American governmental crisis, the so-called "Whisky Rebellion." The rebellion was sup…

Cheapskates

While I was listening to NPR's Car Talk a week or so ago, the brothers got a call from a Sergeant in Bagdad, Iraq. His HMMWV's (Humvee's) were breaking down every week or so because their springs and ball joints weren't built to carry the 5000 lbs. of Armor they now carry. They weren't able to offer him much good advice, aside from more frequent preventive maintenance, but the story reminded me of why I hate these Republican SOB's.

During World War II, we designed the P-51 fighter in 117 days. It, when combined with the Rolls Royce engine, became the premier air superiority fighter of World War II. We have now been in Iraq longer than we were in Europe during WW II and we still haven't come up with new f****** ball joints and springs? And why don't our soldiers have the V-hulled combat vehicles that have proven to be very resistant to IED damage?

The answer is the same as the reason we never properly planned for Iraq, and never put in the number of t…

Walking Home

It was a really nice evening tonight. Hence, after eating a pretty good Chinese meal at a restaurant with my wife and son, I handed the car keys to my son and decided to walk home.

Walking through a dark neighborhood a light in the sky caught my attention. Bright red orange, it was moving a little too fast for a high flying jet, maybe a helicopter or small plane, I thought for a moment. It brightened as it approached, coming from the general direction of Capella. Then it slowly went out, like a dying ember from a firework. I slowed, half expecting to hear a sonic boom - there was none of course.

A very nice bolide, maybe the best meteor I've seen.

90%?

Matt Drudge had a headline up saying that 90% of Europeans believe global warming is caused by humans. It didn't mention if they asked Lubosh. I'm not sure that influences my vote in any way, but:

I am pretty sure that in the long run, global warming has caused more than 90% of the European humans.

Ohio State 60 - Michigan 50

No, that wasn't the score. (The Score was 41-38, Ohio State). The numbers in the title are the reputed annual budgets, in millions of dollars, for their respective football programs. It's good to know we have our priorities straight.

For $110 M/yr., I'm guessing you could hire a few hundred string theorists, a few dozen LQGer's and still have enough left over for a score or so each of several other theorists/crackpots.

UPDATE: I'm informed (via comment) that the actual score was 42-39. Doh!

Breaking News: Harvard Prof Refutes Global Warming!

It snowed somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere this month, thereby definitively disproving the global warming theory.

Now They F****** Tell Us

It seems that the recent electoral reverses have given at least a few members of cowardly press a testoserone injection. Dick Meyer of CBS News dares to raise his head and say what he now admits:
....I should have written 12 years ago when the "Contract with America" Republicans captured the House in 1994. I apologize.

Really, it's just a simple thesis: The men who ran the Republican Party in the House of Representatives for the past 12 years were a group of weirdos. Together, they comprised one of the oddest legislative power cliques in our history. And for 12 years, the media didn't call a duck a duck, because that's not something we're supposed to do.

I'm not talking about the policies of the Contract for America crowd, but the character. I'm confident that 99 percent of the population — if they could see these politicians up close, if they watched their speeches and looked at their biographies — would agree, no matter what their politics or predil…

Who's Our Daddy?

Back to the current account deficit. Has anybody else noticed that we seem to be China's bitch lately?

North Korea misbehaves, so Condi huddles frantically with Beijing. "Won't you please make Kim behave, at least for a few months.

China lends us hundreds of billions of dollars each year, which we use to buy hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods, at prices China keeps artificially low, thus driving American manufacturing out of existence, and tossing the employees out on the street.

Thanks GW. Thanks Republican Party.

Poisonflower Bush

The GW is a Bush that bears no fruit, but produces a profusion of poisonous flowers. The best known one right now is the Iraq War, but some less famous ones may trouble us even longer. The enormous current account deficit will continue to hang over our heads, and our children's heads. The loss of respect for the US in the world is incalculable. The systematic flouting of the law by this administration will either pose a long run threat to our own liberties or result in a congressional reaction that could cripple the presidency. Al Quaeda has been permitted to rebuild in Afghanistan. North Korea has been permitted to resume its nuclear program. 9/11. New Orleans.

Humans became the smartest animals because being stupid tends to be drastically punished in the real world. I suspect that we will pay for the stupidity of electing this stupidest president for a long time.

Old Math

It looks like the discovery method in mathematics is in headlong retreat. The theory was that children would work more like professional mathematicians, discovering the facts of mathematics and figuring out how to solve problems by whatever means they could muster. It's not hard to see why this method was less than a rousing success.

To be sure, there were some worthwhile ideas incorporated, especially the idea that children should try to understand the meaning of concepts like addition, subtraction, and place value. This brainchild of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics might have had some theoretical merit, but in practice it has failed miserably. Concerned teachers hid their old math books, and tried to teach from them.

This New York Times story is about how mainstream math teaching is headed back to the basics.
The changes are being driven by students’ lagging performance on international tests and mathematicians’ warnings that more than a decade of so-called …

More Trouble

Bert Schroer has posted a new ten-point critique of string theory (hep-th/0611132). It is more detailed and technical than some of the other critiques we have seen lately. I'm not prepared (or qualified) to address those issues in detail, but at the risk of gross oversimplification I will guess that his points can be reduced to "string theorists are ignoring the centrality of new insights into quantum field theory revealed by AQFT and other developments." I'm not sure how much weight to give such arguments.

Couldn't ST rejoin that "Non stringy physicists are ignoring the centrality of the emergence of a graviton in a term by term finite perturbation series." LQG, on the hand, just says: "those others ignore the centrality of manifest background independence."

I'm a bit uncomfortable with all these kinds of arguments. It's certainly reasonable to pick some fundamental idea or fact as a heuristic guide, but historically physics has ne…

Morning in Bagdad

This morning, the news is reporting that dozens of SUVs with special interior police characteristics pulled up to an education ministry, overwhelmed the guards, and kinapped everyone inside - as many as 150 people. This is not the US vs. some insurgents, it's a civil war, with us financing and equipping both sides, and targetted by both sides.

If (the still Republican controlled) Congress were even half awake, top US military officials would be subpoenaed today, and asked:

1) Who did this?

2) Why couldn't you react to abort this?

3) What mechanism are you putting in place today to ensure this never happens again?

Overclocking Your Muscles, Overclocking Your Head

Dedicated overclockers like to run their CPUs and graphics engines at higher rates than the design speeds. This poses some risk to the hardware and usually requires special efforts to keep the machines from overheating.

NPR's Morning Edition had a supermouse story this morning about mice genetically engineered to be supermuscular. The most interesting aspect of the method is that it involves turning off a gene (now called myostatin) that limits muscle growth. It turns out that the defective gene is found naturally in a supermuscular breed of cattle as well as a certain German boy, none of which seem to be suffering grave consequences so far.

So why should mice, cattle, and people all have this gene which inhibits muscle growth? Wouldn't it be better to be muscled up a bit when you meet that nasty competitor or predator? I'm not sure that anyone knows the answer, but one plausible possibilty is that muscles just don't get the kind of mileage that fat does. Muscles c…

Goyishe Kop

Lubos has a new post up about some new articles on racial differences in IQ. Following the links into the weeds I found Rushton and Jensen's extensive list of IQ correlated (and anti-correlated) traits. Perhaps unsurprisingly, brain size, caution, and economic success are all correlated with IQ. Anti-correlated, say Rushton and Jensen, are rate of physical development, self-concept, aggressiveness, and dick size. By choosing to post on the topic, Lumo (and I) are clearly making a statement about caution and aggressiveness - follow that where you may.

Steven Pinker has also weighed in on race and IQ. Smartest of all, it seems, are Ashkenazi Jews.
My grandparents were immigrants from Eastern Europe who owned a small necktie factory on the outskirts of Montreal. While visiting them one weekend, I found my grandfather on the factory floor, cutting shapes out of irregular stacks of cloth with a fabric saw. He explained that by carving up the remnants that were left over when the nec…

Market Prophecy

Wolfgang's Statistical Mechanic started me looking at the Iowa Electronic Market political predictions. I don't think any investor will be suprised to notice that this market was not an expecially good political predictor - probably slightly worse than the pundit consensus.

The "I" Word

MSNBC has a Do you believe President Bush's actions justify impeachment? online quiz up. Naturally, in my heart of hearts, I believe that he really ought to be, just as I believe that if Jesus returned to Earth today, his first action would be to scourge Robertson, Dobson, and all their religion as a capitalist enterprise cohorts out of their respective temples.

Of course it would be really stupid for Democrats to try to impeach. Even if Bush is found to be cooking and eating babies in the WH kitchen, they should probably let Republicans introduce the motion to impeach. The Constitution provides impeachment for high crimes and misdemeanors, and Clinton helped proved that low crimes don't quite qualify. (Oddly, the arguably "high crime" he committed, perjury, was not included in the bill against him). Neither does incompetence and stupidity qualify.

I strongly expect Bush to shuffle off the political stage and into history's toilet under his own power, at the…

Hello The Hague

Time is reporting that some victims of American torture are pursuing War Crimes accusations against Donald Rumsfeld and some of his fellow perps.
Just days after his resignation, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is about to face more repercussions for his involvement in the troubled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. New legal documents, to be filed next week with Germany's top prosecutor, will seek a criminal investigation and prosecution of Rumsfeld, along with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior U.S. civilian and military officers, for their alleged roles in abuses committed at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The plaintiffs in the case include 11 Iraqis who were prisoners at Abu Ghraib, as well as Mohammad al-Qahtani, a Saudi held at Guantanamo, whom the U.S. has identified as the so-called "20th hijacker" and a would-be participant in the 9/11 hijackings. As TI…

What to Do

...during that interminable and terminally boring meeting that you really have to attend.

1) Sleep. Negative - Tends to be conspicuous. Especially if you snore, or tend to fall out of your chair

2) Read Book. Neg. - Also conspicuous, not to mention overtly disrespectful.

3) Listen attentively to presentation. Take notes.

4) Derive Navier-Stokes Equations in solenoidal form (while pretending to take notes).

ma = F

Du/Dt = ? ...


5) Read interesting paper, while pretending to take notes. Neg. Excellent idea. Too bad I forgot to bring paper.

6) Write Novel:

It was a Dark and Stormy Night. The gloom was only slightly relieved by the dull red glow of lava bombs, but was sporadically abolished by lightning.

The rain and ash combined with the mud to make a crunchy ooze of black cornflake razorblades. A lightning flash revealed a girl with dirty blond hair, sprawled in the muck. She appeared to be dead.

I leaned to check her pulse, but she groaned slightly and whispered: "Is he…

The Priesthood

The human race - or maybe it's just the male half thereof - has a deep affection for secret societies protecting supposedly secret wisdom. Opus Dei, Scientology, the Masons, and Dan Brown's spectacular literary career are all testimony.

Even subjects like literature, which intrinsically is accessible to all, feel compelled to conjour up some kind of arcanum acanorum just to be like the bigger kids on the block. Thus postmodernism. And thus a brilliant but mainly unsuccessful literary experiment, Ullyses, is regularly voted greatest novel by English majors and just as regularly left unread by almost everyone else.

There is a real arcanum arcanorum, though, and its name is String Theory. Neither money, power, nor fame is much help for the candidate in that society. Persistence, or rather a nearly fanatical determination is necessary but hardly sufficient. Only talent, and a very high degree of that, can close the deal.

All of which is prefactory to my usual lament that so man…

Too Soon to Celebrate

OK, maybe not too soon for a little celebration. But we still have a now seemingly hopeless war in Iraq, Bush is still Commander in Chief for the next 26 months, and our current account deficit is a real threat to our long term economic health.

The right wing wind machine and the idiot press (that is to say, between them, almost all of it) are saying that now the Democrats need to come up with a plan for Iraq. Well no. The Constitution makes the President commander-in-chief, and he couldn't delgate that power and duty to the Congress even if he wanted to. Nor can 535 people - any 535 people - come up with a plan.

What the Democrats can and must do is exercise their Constitutionally mandated oversight. For three years, Bush and Rumsfeld have said that they gave the commanders on the ground just what they asked for. For three years, everybody who talks to those commanders privately hears that Bush and Rummy have been lying. Now we can get them before Congress under oath and f…

Dear W, Thanks for the Directions, Yours Always, b.

In his zeal to pretend that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons, George W. Bush insisted on posting on the public web what Saddam did have: Detailed directions on how to make a nuclear bomb, including diagrams, dimensions, amounts and types of explosives. Despite warnings from US and international nuclear experts, much of the critical information was left up, available for public viewing, until the New York Times wrote about it.
The first known protest about the site came last April, when United Nations weapons inspectors lodged an objection with the United States mission to the United Nations over a chemical weapons document, diplomats said. It was removed. After the site started posting nuclear documents in September, concern arose among United Nations weapons inspectors in Vienna and New York.

Earlier this week, two European diplomats said that weapons experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded that they should warn the United States government of the dangers of po…

Thanks, and So Long to All the Fish

Nope. The Oceans are not an infinite, inexhaustible resource.

Seafood stocks, like many other natural resources, are under heavy pressure from the relentless overproliferation and associated environmental depredations of our species.
Oversight of commercial fishing must be strengthened or there may eventually be no more seafood.

That's the conclusion of a report in today's Science journal that predicts 90% of the fish and shellfish species that are hauled from the ocean to feed people worldwide may be gone by 2048.

Even now, 29% of those species have "collapsed," meaning a 90% decline in the amount being fished from the sea, said Boris Worm, lead author and a professor of marine conservation biology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.

Hope you like farmed Salmon. And Soylent Green.

It is a familiar paradigm for human civilizations: technology advance + cultural advance -> population explosion -> ecological collapse -> cultural collapse -> war, and, fr…

In the Name of God

Andrew Sullivan is a conservative, supported Bush, and supported the war in Iraq (and mercilessly pilloried those who warned it was a blunder), but has been driven into the ranks of the shrill by the mendacity, corruption, incompetence, and sheer Satanic evil of the Bush regime. The shrillness has not affected his acuity though, but sharpened it.
A Christian Against Christianism
01 Nov 2006 10:35 am

C.S. Lewis again:

"Theocracy is the worst of all governments. If we must have a tyrant, a robber baron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point be sated; and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely because he torments us with the approval of his own conscience and his better impulses appear to him as temptations...

The nearer any government approaches to Theocracy the worse it w…

The Master Diagnostician

After a few days of aching pain on the right side of my chest, I consulted the usual web resources and my neighbor who had recently had gall bladder surgery. The evidence was persuasive - I needed to make that appointment and prepare myself for that gall bladder surgery my gastroenterologist had been threating me with for a couple of decades.

Then I noticed the small dark bruise a few inches dorsolateral of my right boob.

And remembered how much it had hurt when the point of the Camry's door had hit it last Sunday.