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Showing posts from February, 2007

Bullshit!

Anytime this administration tells us anything, it's a pretty safe bet that you can call Bullshit! Thus it was with Iraq's nukes, mobile chemical weapons labs, weapons of mass destruction, and ties to al Quaeda. Thus it seems to be with most of the data we supply the UN inspectors about Iran's nuclear program. And so too, it now appears, about those sophisticated IEDs that "had to come" from Iran. Paul Kiel has the story at TPM, based on Wall Street Journal and New York Times stories:

Two weeks ago, the Bush administration organized an intelligence briefing for journalists in Iraq to demonstrate that Iran was providing weapons to Iraqi insurgents. According to the anonymous briefers, the weapons -- particularly explosively formed penetrators or E.F.P.s -- were manufactured in Iran and provided to insurgents by the Quds Force -- a fact that meant direction for the operation was “coming from the highest levels of the Iranian government.”

Well. A raid in southern I…

&%#@ Washington Post/Nutbag Media

I'm no Romney fan, but why exactly is the number of wives his great-grandfather, or great-great-grandfather relevant? Slightly more relevant, I should think, is the number of wives Rudy Giuliani has had, or Newt Gingrich.

Controlling "The Decider"

Congress is struggling feebly to control Bush's reckless adventurism, but the challenge of reasonably controlling the commander in chief during warmtime is extremely difficult. Congress is not an institution that can manage anything - that's not its function.

The power of a dishonest executive to distort and blame is nearly unlimited, as exemplified by the antics of Rice and Cheney.

They can, and should, explicitly prohibit the President from attacking Iran without further approval from Congress.

Congress does have one other crucial power, and that is the power to remove the Officers of the Government. Congress should start assembling the evidence that Bush, Cheney, and Rice systematically lied to the American people and the Congress in order to start the war. It is still too soon for impeachment, but the investigation needs to begin, and if the evidence warrants it, articles of impeachment brought. That can only happen with substantial support from Republicans, so the evi…

Finding Jesus

I am in no position to assess the credibility of this story, but if it holds together at all, it's better than The Da Vinci Code, though hardly orthogonal to it.

New scientific evidence, including DNA analysis conducted at one of the world's foremost molecular genetics laboratories, as well as studies by leading scholars, suggests a 2,000-year-old Jerusalem tomb could have once held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.

The findings also suggest that Jesus and Mary Magdalene might have produced a son named Judah...

The Easterner: Part the Second

Guagina made her way elegantly across the hardwood floor. Even with her thong and pasties covered with the fawn and blue track suit, she was impressive, 5' 11" in bare feet, plus three inch heels topped by a cloud of flame red hair. She was on a delicate diplomatic mission.

The bar was empty, except for her, Lefty the one-armed barkeep, and Les. A few days in the humid atmosphere of the bar had allowed the cowpies to absorb water, beer, spit, and tobacco juice, and they were beginning to support ecosystems of their own. Lefty was losing his shirt, but at the moment was more concerned about his remaining limbs. Gaugina wasn't making any tips either.

"Hey Les, what's up with Britt?"

"She's still in El Paso. She's got the money to bail her Mom out, but Grandma wants to wait while Marjean detoxes a bit."

OK, Killer hadn't bitten her head off. She delicately broached the subject of Super Conformal field theories. Les responded immediatel…

Pointless, Incessant, Barking

Brad DeLong posts his favorite New Yorker cartoons.

The first, at least, should speak to every blogger.

I Can See Clearly Now

Americans might take comfort in seeing that we aren't the only nation whose leaders are easily baffled by simple Jedi mind tricks. Of course the fact that that nation is our closest ally in the most dangerous part of the world is not exactly reassuring.

via David Kurtz at TPM.

Persuasion

The new movie Amazing Grace has me thinking about the powers and limits of persuasion. Writing a blog is a good lesson in the limits. Ideas and ideologies have their own immune systems which fiercely resist the attacks of contrary notions. Persuading people who already largely agree with you is easier, of course. Trying to persuade those who don't is likely to result in anger, frustration, and insult.

And yet, the power is evident too. A tiny few have managed to transform the world with the persuasiveness of their ideas and examples - sometimes even for good. Jesus Christ, Martin Luther, Fredrick Douglass, Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, as well as Wilberforce and Wesley are prominent examples.

Beyond ideas is the problem of translating those ideas into actions. Washington and Jefferson knew that slavery was evil, but lacked to moral, political and personal courage to act against it. Nor can one deny that the time was not yet ripe in the United States for abolition. …

Torture

Andrew Sullivan takes the occasion of the opening of the new movie Amazing Grace to note the link between slavery and torture:
As Scott Horton explains more fully here, when Wilberforce and Wesley aimed to persuade the British elites that the slave trade was evil, they did not cite Biblical proscriptions against slavery. Why? Because the Bible is actually very ambiguous about slavery (the Southern Baptist Convention even used scripture to defend slavery in America). So Wilberforce stressed that the slave trade required unspeakable cruelty, abuse and torture of its victims. That was his rhetorical gambit. He framed his case against the slave trade as a case against inhumane treatment of prisoners of war.

He points out that torture is an essential ingredient of slavery.

Of course, Andy being Andy, he can't resist trying to make it an equivalence relation. That dodo, though, won't fly.

Not that Cheney or Bush is likely to have any more respect for the Bible than they have for the C…

The One Per Cent Solution

Sean Carroll looks at a new pitstop on the information highway.
Everyone is having their fun with Conservapedia, a rightward-tilting alternative to Wikipedia that aims to ensure that future generations of conservatives grow up really dumb...
Well, I guess you can't be too careful, but how much upside risk was there, anyway?

A sample via Sean:
Albert Einstein

Einstein’s work had nothing to do with the development of the atomic bomb. Nothing useful has even been built based on the theory of relativity. Only one Nobel Prize (in 1993 and not to Einstein) has ever been given that even remotely relates to the theory of relativity. Many things predicted by the theory of relativity, such as gravitons, have never been found despite much searching for them. Many observed phenomenon, such as the bending of light passing near the sun or the advance of the perihelion in the orbit of Mercury, can be also predicted by Newton’s theory.

Back Off Man, We're Scientists!

Suppose you saw a big old guy in a broad brimmed hat walking around in a small forest of odd looking objects on tripods, holding aloft a long, slim strip of toilet paper. Sometime standing here or there with the toilet paper directly overhead, sometimes moving about or rotating slowly, with the tp held at arms length, first to one side and then another.

You might well think you were looking at a wacko, but were you really?

Once upon a time (and sometimes even now), winds were measured with propeller anemometers. These instruments look a bit like a miniature airplane fuselage on a stick, with a propeller in front and a tail behind. The drag on the tail keeps the instrument pointed into the wind while an angle sensor records the wind direction. The rate of spin can be decoded to yield the wind speed. These instruments are slow of response and not terribly accurate.

A more modern technology is the sonic anemometer. It consists of two or three pairs of usually orthogonal tubes contain…

The Easterner

The slight, exhausted man steps off his bicycle on a dusty Las Cruces street.

His bike tires are flat and encrusted with goatheads. So is his hair.
He looks like he has ridden the last 800 miles through a duststorm.

He has.

No matter. He is on a mission of vengence.

He speaks to the first man he meets: "I'm looking for a pig."

"No hablo Ingles."

He tries again on the next guy, a wiry guy in a Stetson and cowboy boots.

"Sorry, this is cattle country. Cattle and goats."

"A Capitalist Pig."

Stetson: "We don't hold much with Communists here boy. You sound like one of them European Commies. Just what is your business here anyway, and do you have a green card? What's your name anyway?

The avenger tells him.

Boots and Stetson: "Shit! I can't pronounce that, much less spell it. How 'bout if I just call you Dusty. I think I know who you are looking for - a kinda tall, mean, lean customer? We usually just call him killer -…

Women of Chivalry

Now I admit to being one of those who thought that Chivalry died when we sent old Dobbin to the glue factory, but Grian Ruadh ingen Aed of the SCA has a slightly different view, which I think might be summarized as "suck it up, girls, and get with the program."

Shut The Hell Up.

Yes, I’m talking to YOU.

YOU are the reason that many male fighters (and not a few female fighters) still think that female fighters in general are whiny candyasses not worth training.

...

YOU are the attention-seeker who bellyaches the loudest about being hit too hard whenever someone lays anything more substantial than a tap on you.

YOU are the sinkhole of negativity who has a mile long list of gripes and complaints that you will reel off to anyone who will stand still long enough to listen but doesn’t seem interested in actually finding solutions.

YOU are the flutter of false earnestness constantly asking for advice but rarely taking any that doesn’t involve stroking your fragile little ego or garnering…

Stupid New Blogger Question

Ever since I switched to New Blogger, stupid Blogger refuses to remember my very long stupid New Blogger username. Any theories as to why? I usually check the remembe me box, but it never does.

Pig Out!

Happy New Year!

Today is the first day of the [Chinese]New Year, the year of the golden pig. Shoud be auspicious for wealth. I think I may buy a lottery ticket.

Blood on the Moon

Although American rocket expertise predates German, the real foundation of America's space power was von Braun and the scientists he handpicked to be brought to the US after World War II. They built our first ICBMs and the rockets that carried Americans into space and to the moon.

The V-2's were a much feared terror weapon, but since much of the manufacture was done with slave labor grotesquely brutalized by the SS, von Braun's rockets killed more people in their manufacture than in their employment.

According to V2Rocket.com, at least 25,000 slave laborers perished at the Mittelbrau construction complex:
Over 25,000 of these were killed either by beatings, starvation, and sickness in the complex, or by the brutal efforts of the SS to relocate them before the Americans arrived in April, 1945. We now know that many of the most shocking “concentration camp pictures” that are seared into our common consciousness from this era were taken by U.S. troops as they entered the Mittel…

Trouble in Tennessee

It seems that Tennessee is not only the point of origin of the tainted peanut butter but also the home State and base of The Anti-Christ.

These, of course, are relatively minor faults compared to Nashville ;)

Down at Mary's Old Time Bar

A bar I once knew was frequented by, among others, loggers and college football players. Oddly enough, this occasionally led to strife. Usually one doesn't notice the precipitating event, but the denouement stuck in my mind.
Football guy:
...You're just a dumb truck driver.
The logger (or maybe logging truck driver), responded with a physical riposte, and football guy was soon on the floor, oozing blood.
Football guy:
You're still a dumb truck driver.
Logger:
Maybe so, but if you're so smart, how come you are looking up at me from the floor bleeding?
Rhetoric isn't what it once was.

E pur si muove! Not!

From our conservative Republican friends we learn that this whole Copernican shit, just like evolution and global warming, is just another part of the vast Jewish conspiracy to destroy Christianity. Josh Marshall has the details and links here.

Some details of this bit of consensus science:
“Indisputable evidence — long hidden but now available to everyone — demonstrates conclusively that so-called ‘secular evolution science’ is the Big-Bang 15-billion-year alternate ‘creation scenario’ of the Pharisee Religion,” reads the letter that went out under Bridges' name. “This scenario is derived concept-for-concept from Rabbinic writings in the mystic ‘holy book’ Kabbala dating back at least two millennia.”

It seems that the actual author or analyst, I guess you might say, was a fellow named Marshall Hall, the husband of Bridges campaign manager, Bonnie Hall. Then they sent it out over Bridges' signature to state legislators in Texas, California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and O…

Addicted!

OK, I admit it. My name is C and I am an addict.

I can't stop myself. I keep going over to Lumo's Place for another fix of Les Horribles Cernettes

Taking Out the Trash

There is a nice moment in Ghostbusters where Bill Murray and his fellow charlatans suddenly start getting some actual results, only to have the long-suffering Dean burst in and triumphantly announce that they are getting the boot.

That moment has apparently arrived at Princeton. The PEAR's lab, it seems, is shutting its doors and Princeton is getting out of the paranormal psychology business. The lab's head did insist, though, that they are getting some really interesting results.

On a parallel, but rather less substantiated note, rumors indicate that PU will also be closing down its String Theory programs. The resources freed by these two closures will reputedly go into beefing up the climate science program.

Go Tigers!

Fame!

Lumo has made the big time - Drudge no less. That's big time Climo-Denial in my book.

Better apply for the AEI $10,000, Luboš!

As an added, the president of Czechia might have some explaining to do, especially if Gore is the next president.

Iraq: the Next Act

Congress and the American people are now caught in a terrible dilemma. It is clear to the majority of each that the war in Iraq is being lost, and that the strategy with which it is being pursued is certain to get more American soldiers killed and likely to further destabilize this strategically critical region. The dilemma is occasioned by the fact that our President is determined to pursue his failed ideas and that their is no really appropriate provision in the Constitution for replacing him.

Lt. Gen William E Odom was an early and prophetic critic of the Iraq war. He also
was head of Army intelligence and director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Reagan. He served on the National Security Council staff under Jimmy Carter. A West Point graduate with a PhD from Columbia, Odom teaches at Yale

He wrote a must-read op-ed column in the Washington Post today called Victory is Not an Option:
The new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq starkly delineates the gulf that separate…

Crazytown

I guess the psych department at my alma mater must have been on a recruiting binge when I entered school, because I remember being bombarded with recruiting stuff before I enrolled. It is, no doubt, a good thing that I ignored their blandishments, because it turns out that dealing with crazy people is bad for my health. Of course we all have to confront a certain number of nutjobs in our personal and professional lives, but I'm definitely going to try to [New Years Resolution] cut down on my interactions with Climo-Denial nutjobs.

Of course somebody still has to monitor a few of the more egregious bits of charlatanry and swindle spewing from the maw of Exxoth The Enemy and the various balrogs, blogs, demons, policy institutes and lesser slave creatures that it created or corrupted, not to mention keeping track of the fairly large number of indigenous loons and locos in the area. I will, however, reject and abjure that role and commend it to Eli Rabett and the saintly scientists …

More War Lies

Patrick Fitzgerald has turned over a big rock, and lots of ugly Bush/Cheney creatures are scurrying to get out of the light. In particular, the testimony of White House insiders has made it clear that Bush and company were deliberately lying to the country when they denied knowlege or responsibility for the leak campaign. Did they also lie to Fitzgerald? If so, that's obstruction of justice, even if they were not under oath.

Peter Yost of the Associate Press lays out some incriminating details:
David Addington, chief legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, says he was taken aback when the White House started making public pronouncements about the CIA leak investigation.


In the fall of 2003, President Bush's press secretary was categorically denying that either Karl Rove or I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was involved in exposing the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA employee married to a critic of the war in Iraq.

"Why are you making these statements?" Addin…

Bad Press

The Washington Post's Dan Froomkin has the definitive story on the way the press covered itself with ignominy in the Valerie Plame Wilson affair. While the press was busy wondering who the leakers were, and the White House was busy issuing pius lies, much of the Washington press, including, among others, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and NBC knew exactly who was leaking, because they had been leaked to, too, and knew that the White House was lying.

So why didn't they tell us. Protecting their sources, they claim. Protecting their access, is what they really mean. The Washington press, it seems, has become an unofficial propaganda arm of the government.

Froomkin starts with the Tim Russert:
If you're a journalist, and a very senior White House official calls you up on the phone, what do you do? Do you try to get the official to address issues of urgent concern so that you can then relate that information to the public?

Not if you're NBC Washington bureau ch…

Slimeball Watch

While you slept, Brad DeLong notices a slime trail, picks upThe Politico's Mike Allen, analyzes the same, dissects the perp and pickles him in formaldehyde. Mike, it seems, imagines in his dimwit mind that he has found an inconsistency in Barack Obama's name story.
Friday at sundown is a fitting moment to take note of a particularly pathetic piece of Journamalism from Mike Allen at the Politico.

You see, Mike Allen begins his trashing of Barack Obama. Understand: Mike Allen isn't doing the trashing--oh no no no. Mike Allen is just saying what the critics of Obama will say.

Let's give Mike the mike, and watch him take his dive:

The Politico: Barack Obama’s free ride is ending.... Obama’s about to endure a going-over that would make a proctologist blush. Why has he sometimes said his first name is Arabic, and other times Swahili?... [T]he long knives will be out for Obama.... Officials at the top of both parties calculate that Obama has risen too fast... “vapid platitudes”…

Two Links

What's 20 miles long and costs about 550 tons of $100 bills?

It's the ILC, baby, and it's The next big thing. Dennis Overbye of the NYT has the story.

Lumo has a link to a nice video interview of his Harvard colleague Steven Pinker by Steven Colbert.

Health Insurance

Kevin Drum links to a story that shows how the times, they are a changing. Most Americans get health insurance through their employers, but this is a benefit that is rapidly being eroded. Union boss Andy Stern says:
She has worked every day of her life. Her 16 year old daughter Janelle was having respiratory problems, and the doctor sent her for an x-ray. But because Lisa still owed several hundred dollars from a previous illness, the x-ray was postponed and the doctor said they would just monitor her progress. Three days later—Janelle died. She died in the richest country on earth, even though her Mom worked every day, simply because she was still too poor to afford health care.

This is not the America any of us want.

...

It is time to admit that the employer-based health care system is dead—a relic of the industrial economy. America cannot compete in the new global economy when we are the only industrialized nation on earth that puts the price of healthcare on the cost of our product…

Isla de Pascua (again)

Wolfgang has a short, not quite harmless post on Easter Island, AIDS, the Fate of the World.

Rumors that WB is a roadie for an obscure rock band are likely false.

How Much is 363 Tons?

Well, if it's all in $100 bills, that would be about four billion dollars. That's just a guess - maybe there were some $20's.
The Federal Reserve sent record payouts of more than $4 billion in cash to Baghdad on giant pallets aboard military planes shortly before the United States gave control back to Iraqis, lawmakers said Tuesday.
...
Bills weighing a total of 363 tons were loaded onto military aircraft in the largest cash shipments ever made by the Federal Reserve, said Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

I guess Halliburton, or somebody, didn't want to take a check.

Uh Oh

I get really, really nervous when I find myself agreeing with Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson about anything, but I'm afraid he hit the mark with Global Warming and Hot Air. His point is that despite the talk, prospects for meaningful action against global warming are slight.
Don't be fooled. The dirty secret about global warming is this: We have no solution. About 80 percent of the world's energy comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), the main sources of man-made greenhouse gases. Energy use sustains economic growth, which -- in all modern societies -- buttresses political and social stability. Until we can replace fossil fuels or find practical ways to capture their emissions, governments will not sanction the deep energy cuts that would truly affect global warming.

It's no secret that the worst offender of today, the US, and the worst offenders to come (China and India) are exactly those not really offering even lip service to emissions control.…

How do You Know...?

How do you know that Easter Island wasn't wiped out by a tsunami?
asks Rae Ann in this comment.

There are many similar questions. How do we know that the Universe is expanding? How do we know that the Earth is more than four billion years old? How do we know that Finland was covered with ice 25,000 years ago? How do we know that human activity is increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere? How do we know that Africa and South America were joined two hundred million years or so ago? How do we know what the sea level was 500 years ago or how much CO2 was in the atmosphere 200,000 years ago. How do we know, for that matter, that the Earth is round and that the Moon isn't made of green cheese?

In each case, even the last, there is a chain of evidence that leads to the deduction. In the case of Easter Island, and Rae Ann's question, the answer is easy. The great part of Easter Island is more than 50 meters above sea level. Portions are more than 400 meters above se…

Egyptian River Roundup

I don't want Lumo to feel neglected, so let me just mention that he has a roundup of denialist stuff up right now - or at least a few tidbits. Pride of place goes to Timothy Ball, who touts himself as the first Canadian Ph.D. in Climatology - apparently having gotten his degree sometime in the first half of the last century. A quick check of Google Scholar seems to show that he, or some similar named fellow, has written a bit about CO2 uptake by pine trees. Perhaps fittingly, his rant (follow the link to Lumo), is full of sound and fury but utterly devoid of relevant criticism. He complains, but never explains. No piece of logic or experimental information flows from his keyboard.

Getting a lower billing, but with slightly more content, is a ten-part newspaper (if I may so dignify a Murdoch propaganda sheet) series on great living climate deniers. This series was put together by Lawrence Solomon, and energy industry flack, and has the advantage of variety. His list of deniers…

We *Are* All Doomed

From the Orlando Sentinel, the latest sign of the impending apocalypse:
A NASA astronaut is charged with attacking her rival for another astronaut's attention early Monday at Orlando International Airport, the Orlando Sentinel has learned.

Lisa Marie Nowak drove from Texas to meet the 1 a.m. flight of a younger woman who had also been seeing the male astronaut Nowak pined for, according to Orlando police.

Nowak -- who was a mission specialist on a Discovery launch last summer -- was wearing a trench coat and wig and had a knife, BB pistol, rubber tubing and plastic bags, reports show. Once U.S. Air Force Capt. Colleen Shipman arrived, Nowak followed her to the airport's Blue Lot for long-term parking, tried to get into Shipman's car and doused her with pepper spray, according to reports.

The alleged perps NASA biography describes her as:
Married and a mother of three children, her interests include running, playing the piano and collecting African violets...
The flowers made me…

Doctor Brainiac's War

Thomas Ricks has a Washington Post Story on the brain trust General David Petraeus has assembled to advise his Iraq strategy:
Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, is assembling a small band of warrior-intellectuals -- including a quirky Australian anthropologist, a Princeton economist who is the son of a former U.S. attorney general and a military expert on the Vietnam War sharply critical of its top commanders -- in an eleventh-hour effort to reverse the downward trend in the Iraq war.

Army officers tend to refer to the group as "Petraeus guys." They are smart colonels who have been noticed by Petraeus, and who make up one of the most selective clubs in the world: military officers with doctorates from top-flight universities and combat experience in Iraq.

The concept cannot be faulted. The dumb guys have screwed this up, so maybe it's time to let the smart guys try. There are two huge potential problems, however. The first is that the smart guys won&…

Too Dumb to Live?

If you put certain simple organisms on a plate of nutrient material, they will multiply until they poison themselves with their own waste. Humans, too, have often demonstrated a rather similar behavior - Easter Island and Chaco Canyon for two examples.

Why so? In each case, the easy answer is to say that they were too dumb to know any better. It's not quite that simple, though. Other organisms demonstrate complex adaptive and cooperative behavior with a better long term prognosis. Our cousins the slime molds are a favourite of mine. People too have often proven capable of adapting.

A slightly more sophisticated answer is that the environment that humans (and the simple organisms of our first example) evolved for was an environment in which resources and predation limited the self-poisoning factor. The biologists agar plate, and our technological society, are just different versions of temporary release from that constraint.

Our technology has allowed us to multiply like th…

Fear and Loathing in Godric's Hollow

There is a lot of fear and loathing in HP fandom about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and last volume in Jo Rowling's series. Loathing, because we (readers, publishers, bookstores) hate to see the end of the series, and fear, because we know she will kill off some of our heroes, possibly including Harry. Fear too, because we love her now but fear that she may just be the kind of sadist who might do that murder most foul, thereby earning our undying bitterness - or so we fear.

Of course there is also the fear that, whatever happens, the seventh book won't be as good as the others. Sequels are never supposed to be as good as the originals, but of course she has now written five of them without a clinker. Yet.

For some books, the author is part of the story, and Jo's is one of the more dramatic. We love Harry and we loved the story of the single mother writing her books in longhand in Cafes. Thus, it was a bit of downer to learn that HP 7 was finished i…

Moral Hazard

Insurance - especially insurance via the government - is a favorite bugaboo of libertarians and various other wingnuts. To the extent that they have an intellectual argument, it is based on the concept of "moral hazard." As an economist I know explained the concept to his mother, the moral hazard argument is that you are "less likely to step in front of a bus if you know you aren't insured for the expected medical expenses." Thus, the argument goes, you are more likely to engage in dangerous behaviors - smoke, drink excessively, become obese, or step in front of a bus - if you have medical insurance, so such insurance actually encourages unhealthy behaviors.

I find it hard to believe than anybody takes this argument very seriously, though economists apparently do.

See Wikipedia for more plausible applications of the principle of moral hazard.

A Modest Proposal

The changes in the world since 1790 have mostly tended to strengthen the executive branch of the government. The founders did not envision a large standing army, so, for them, the power of Congress to raise Armies was a crucial part of the war powers of the constitution. It easy to believe that they also could not have foreseen the complexity of global commerce and other factors which have made our national government (every government) so large and intrusive.

There have been complaints lately about another recent Bush power grab - an executive order he signed to make all regulations pass through and be approved by an agency political officer.

There is a simple and useful measure Congress could take which would minimize politization, tend to restore the constitutional balance of power, and lead to better government in many ways. Right now, the President - each President - appoints about three-thousand political appointees to senior agency jobs. Those appointees include a few top a…

Strongly Recommended

I strongly recommend today's Huffington Post article by James Fallows. Forget Iraq, he says to Congress, worry about drawing the line on Iran:
Deciding what to do next about Iraq is hard -- on the merits, and in the politics. It's hard on the merits because whatever comes next, from "surge" to "get out now" and everything in between, will involve suffering, misery, and dishonor...

By comparison, Iran is easy: on the merits, in the politics. War with Iran would be a catastrophe that would make us look back fondly on the minor inconvenience of being bogged down in Iraq. While the Congress flounders about what, exactly, it can do about Iraq, it can do something useful, while it still matters, in making clear that it will authorize no money and provide no endorsement for military action against Iran.

He runs through the plausible scenarios, all of which Bush appears to be angling toward. The difficulty is that Congress's leverage in practice is somewhat limi…

Hillary

Have I mentioned lately that I don't like Hillary? I believe she's smart, I believe her policies are likely to be somewhat reasonable, and I believe that she is one of the 150 million or so Americans who would be much better Presidents than George W Bush. She might even be in the top 100.

Her personality grates, grates, grates, grates, grates, however. Almost every word she says seems to ooze insincerity. I mean, what kind of politician is that? How can you be a politician if you haven't even learned to fake sincerity?

So much for the minor problems. Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton sounds like a real dynastic horror show. I don't want that kind of a country.

Maybe I'm a hopelessly sexist anti-dynastic nutbag, but I don't want her.

I didn't want Bill, either, of course, and he turned out to be a halfway-good President. Too bad that he, the vast RW conspiracy, and our worthless press (epithet deleted you, Michael Isikoff) screwed up the other half.

This is the Way the World Ends

Sabrina Tavernise has spent twenty-two months in Iraq. Her New York Times today captures much of the ongoing catastrophe George Bush has unleashed there.
A PAINFUL measure of just how much Iraq has changed in the four years since I started coming here is contained in my cellphone. Many numbers in the address book are for Iraqis who have either fled the country or been killed. One of the first Sunni politicians: gunned down. A Shiite baker: missing. A Sunni family: moved to Syria.

I first came to Iraq in April 2003, at the end of the looting several weeks after the American invasion. In all, I have spent 22 months here, time enough for the place, its people and their ever-evolving tragedy to fix itself firmly in my heart.

Now, as I am leaving Iraq, a new American plan is unfolding in the capital. It feels as if we have come back to the beginning. Boots are on the ground again. Boxy Humvees move in the streets. Baghdad fell in 2003 and we are still trying to pick it back up. But Iraq is…

Good Reviews

I recently ordered Michael Dine's new book Supersymmetry and String Theory: Beyond the Standard Model, partly on the strength of Lumo's endorsement.

What really won my heart, though, was this five star review by Big Tuna on Amazon:
This volume will serve as a Rosetta Stone for future historians trying to make sense of the pre-LHC era of speculative physics literature. The author has accomplished a heroic task, preserving these elegant yet soon to be forgotten theories for future generations.

Conservative Science

The Guardian reports:

Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due to be published today.

Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered.
The UN report was written by international experts and is widely regarded as the most comprehensive review yet of climate change science. It will underpin international negotiations on new emissions targets to succeed the Kyoto agreement, the first phase of which expires in 2012. World governments were given a draft last year and invited to comment.

The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worke…

The Edge of the Abyss

Speak up. We're on the edge of the abyss.

So says Josh Marshall, and I agree. All the augeries indicated that Bush is angling for a war with Iran. Never mind that this this makes sense only in the minds of those who think that protecting Israel is more important than protecting the United States - or that even they are clearly deluded.

This is the preeminent, really the only question in American politics today: Do we want to go to war with Iran or not? With the escalating chaos in Iraq and the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, is it in our interests or not to get into a shooting war with Iran? The debate over the 'surge' of US troops into Baghdad is significant in its own way, but it pales in comparison to this one.

I've always viewed the fears that the White House would try expand the war into Iran with a mix of deep skepticism, fascination and latent foreboding. Logically, it makes no sense on any number of counts. But the last half dozen years has taught us a…