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Showing posts from March, 2007

Land Ho!

Eric Mayes, writing in a comment on Cosmic Variance claims to have a paper coming out Monday that derives the MSSM from string theory, complete with lepton masses and neutrino mixing ratios (at least for known particles). Very exciting if true - especially if their derivation gives masses for particles not yet measured. I'm not sure what the status of the measurement of neutrino mixing ratios is.
We can now competely derive the MSSM from string theory, including the quark, tau lepton, and neutrino mass matrices and mixings (see our paper on Monday), so these people should sit down and be quiet.


I don't know if this is truly legit, but there does seem to be a real Eric Mayes at Texas A&M.

UPDATE: Via Wolfgang, the paper is here.

No Cabinet for Judy

Apparently there is no Cabinet post for Judith in the Giuliani administration.

That's actually a pretty good idea. It would be a shame to have to fire your Secretary of State just because you moved a new girl friend into the White House.

Woodshedding Broder

It has become fashionable to bash Washington Post columnist and occasional TV talking head David Broder as a semi-senile Bush sychophant. As one entering my semi-senility myself, I prefer the term "clueless sychophant," but, whatever. One of the hazards of membership in the punditocracy in the age of the intertube is the ease of dredging up the evidence of prophecies past, as Joe Klein recently learned to his sorrow. Josh Marshall finds a good one from a Broder column six days after Hurricane Katrina (quote is from Broder's column):
It took almost no time for President Bush to put his stamp on the national response to the tragedy that has befallen New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, a reminder that modern communications have reshaped the constitutional division of powers in our government in ways that the Founding Fathers never could have imagined.
Because the commander in chief is also the communicator in chief, when a crisis emerges the nation's eyes turn to him as t…

Connecting the Dots

Via Josh Marshall, Laura Rozen connects two important dots in the Cunningham -US Attorneys - Gonzales - Rove mystery:
From 1991 to 1993, a young lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve was working as a program manager in a Pentagon intelligence office. His name was Mitchell John Wade. His boss, the assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications and intelligence, was Duane P. Andrews. Andrews's job at the Pentagon was essentially to serve as intelligence advisor to the secretary of defense. The secretary of defense at the time was someone that Andrews knew well and respected immensely: Dick Cheney...

Among the many lingering unanswered questions on this aspect of the case is who, in May 2002 -- just two months in advance of Wade getting the White House contract -- facilitated MZM getting authorized to be a federal supplier in the first place. This was done through a small branch of the Department of the Interior called the Minerals Management Service. That servi…

Cap Answers it All

Image
Cap tries to explain greenhouse warming. Critiques welcomed - especially from those who know.

From a comment on her blog by Rae Ann

RA -

cip, I'm sorry I still don't really understand how exactly the greenhouse effect on Venus or even Mars can be applied to Earth. You should explain it the way that you would explain it to a child.

I just don't see how you can plug 96% and .003% into the *same* calculations and get any kind of meaningful result.

These are good questions, but unfortunately the answers are complicated, which is why I’ve delayed answering it. Let me say a word about the second question first. One of the most important discoveries in the history of physics was Newton’s realization that the same force that brought the apple from the tree to the Earth dragged the moon in its orbit about the Earth (and the Earth about the Sun, and so on). So it doesn’t surprise a physicist when a single equation explains phenomena differing by many orders of magnitude. Incidentally, i…

Over The Waterfall

The case of the fired US Attys seems to be the scandal that keeps on giving. Congress turns over one rock and a million uglies stagger, crawl, and stumble out into the light. The list of WH and DoJ chiefs likely to face serious legal problems just keeps on growing. From Josh Marshall:
Not good, not good. The White House Counsel's Office gave explicit sign off to the DOJ's letter falsely claiming Rove and Miers played no role in Tim Griffin's appointment as US Attorney. And the sign off came from Chris Oprison, the guy at the Counsel's office who Sampson had told about Rove's and Miers' role only a couple months earlier.

Commenters are having a bit o'fun imagining a bit o'prison for Mr. Oprison.

The trails all seem to point in the direction of Karl Rove and Harriet Miers. W might want to start checking out that old pardon pen - I don't think it works after you get impeached and removed.

This has got to be a great time to be a major criminal defense …

The Cunningham Connection

Josh Marshall reports a big story uncovered by Marcus Stern and colleagues at Copley News Service.
Mitchell Wade paid the bribes to former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) that eventually led to both men pleading guilty to multiple felonies. Almost two years ago we noted the odd news that the first federal contract Wade ever received was with none other than the White House, the White House itself, which is officially called the Executive Office of the President in federal contracting-speak.

The contract was signed on July 15th, 2002 and it was supposedly for "office furniture."

On December 5th, 2005, the LA Times reported that the contract was "to provide office furniture and computers for Vice President Cheney."

Now, a lot of people have wondered for a long time just what that contract was really for. Remember, this was the maiden contract for a company specializing in defense and intelligence services. (The company was approved for federal contracting two months earlie…

Swept Away

Timothy Egan has this story on what is happening in the high Southwest in the NYT. For those of us who have been watching the slow erosion of these ancient ecosystems, it feels like a harbinger of doom foretold:
SUMMERHAVEN, Ariz. — High above the desert floor, this little alpine town has long served as a natural air-conditioned retreat for people in Tucson, one of the so-called sky islands of southern Arizona. When it is 105 degrees in the city, it is at least 20 degrees cooler up here near the 9,157-foot summit of Mount Lemmon.

But for the past 10 years or so, things have been unraveling. Winter snows melt away earlier, longtime residents say, making for an erratic season at the nearby ski resort, the most southern in the nation.

Legions of predatory insects have taken to the forest that mantles the upper mountain, killing trees weakened by record heat. And in 2003, a fire burned for a month, destroying much of the town and scarring more than 87,000 acres. The next year, another fire…

Former Bush Fan on Torture

Andrew Sullivan, former Bush fan and relentless persecutor of all who differed with Bush's war, has this:
We knew this already but it's always helpful to be reminded:

Solzhenitsyn wrote in The Gulag Archipelago that sleep deprivation was perhaps the worst torture inflicted on the prisoners. Interestingly, torture was also illegal in the Soviet Union, and sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures, and stress positions were merely considered coercive methods. At the end of interrogation, prisoners had to sign a statement affirming that they had not been tortured and that they had given their confessions in full awareness of their rights.
Here's an account of a Rumsfeld and Bush approved interrogation of one detained enemy combatant:

In one of the few actual logs we have of a high-level interrogation, that of Mohammed al-Qhatani (first reported in TIME), doctors were present during the long process of constant sleep deprivation over 55 days, and they induced hypothermia and the us…

Once More

A couple of posts ago, I repeated some exhanges I had with Lubos on his site. I did so because I thought he might delete them. The one he did delete surprised me though:

Lumo - I want the society not to pay attention to corrupt individuals who have financial and ideological reasons to get the conclusions they get and who are connected with spheres of the society who are demonstrably driven by other things than scientific truth.

Wow Lubos! We agree absolutely on that. The only thing we disagree about is which side they are mainly on.


At the time I was surprised at the deletion, but in retrospect, I think I understand it. Clever fellow that he is Lubos realizes how weak his ground is when he matches up those who earn their daily bread by flacking for Exxon Mobile versus people who publish papers on scientific research. He had to delete this meme before it penetrated the firewalls in his brain and let some logic in. Who knows what might happen if that occurred - maybe even his wingnut gr…

Is Global Warming a Crisis?

James Annan weighs in:
This debate has been discussed at length on RC already, but the audio is up on the web so I had a listen to it - all 90 minutes. The only real surprise was that any scientists would try to oppose the motion - that "global warming is not a crisis" - and it's only to be expected that they would struggle. Of course it's not a "crisis", but rather a long-term problem. There is nothing special about this year, or even this decade, compared to the previous or next, other than that it happens to be the one we are currently in. In fact the entire problem centres on the fact that climate change is a long-term issue, rather than something that can come to a turning point and be resolved.


I agree. What we do now or tommorow is much less important than what we do over the next twenty or thirty years. As a planetary disease, it's more like high blood pressure than a heart attack.

Habitat destruction, on the other hand, *is* a crisis. We prob…

Iran's Game

It's not quite clear what game Iran is playing with the British prisoners. They may just be trying to negotiate to get back the Iranians captured in Iraq, or maybe Ahmadinejad hopes to prop up his shaky regime with this kind of stunt. On the other hand, he has handed Cheney a knife and yelled "stab me."

Perhaps he is gambling that Bush is too wounded to react. What about Britain? Can it project significant power into Iran? Probably not, without US help. There is also the fact that war with Iran would drive oil way up - maybe over $100/bbl.

I haven't seen much blogospheric reaction, but I suspect that this is an extremely dangerous moment. I can't believe that either Bush or Blair will tolerate a Carter style hostage situation, but the alternatives are pretty grim - not that discretion has ever been part of Bush's DNA.

Backup Only

Lubos has a new post up on a global warming debate, and I made a few comments. Since Lumo often deletes my comments, here they are:
Lumo - I want the society not to pay attention to corrupt individuals who have financial and ideological reasons to get the conclusions they get and who are connected with spheres of the society who are demonstrably driven by other things than scientific truth.


Wow Lubos! We agree absolutely on that. The only thing we disagree about is which side they are mainly on.
CapitalistImperialistPig Homepage 03.25.07 - 12:34 am #

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Gene Day - Instabilities in any system are necessarily driven by energy gradients or energy differences. Our own severe climate instabilities such as thunderstorms and accompanying tornadoes are very clearly driven by the proximity of cold arctic air from Canada and warm air from the Gulf of Mexico.

Most midlatitude precipitation is also driven by this same inst…

No Retreat, No Surrender, All Crapage

I haven't seen the movie 300, nor am I likely to, but it sounds like a triumph of wing-nut inspired bullshit. Arun has gathered a number of articles documenting some of the violence the movie does to history, logic, and common sense.

Quite naturally, it is extremely popular with the right wing stupidocracy, eager as they are to glorify any bit of racist fascism the history of which they can hope to distort.

You'd Better Watch Out!

Are you one of the 140,000 Americans who has been conscripted by the FBI to spy on your fellow citizens? Well, you couldn't tell us if you were, could you? - that's one of the thoughtful provisions of the USA Patriot Act.

We now have a pretty good idea what Bush saw when he looked into Putin's eyes and liked what he saw: a fellow fascist.

The Inspector General of the Justice Department, which apparently has so-far escaped complete corruption by Bush, Rove, and Gonzalez, recently revealed that the FBI has been flagarantly abusing its powers to issue so-called "National Security Letters" and also lying in its required reporting of same to the Congress.

Any American who cares about freedom, for themselves or their children, ought to read this Washington Post Story by a recipient of such a letter.

Three years ago, I received a national security letter (NSL) in my capacity as the president of a small Internet access and consulting business. The letter ordered me to pro…

Not Impeachy Keen

It seems likely that the US Attorney scandal will turn up yet more justification for an impeachment of George Bush. While many would be ecstatic about such an event, the political classes aren't. Democrats don't want to fire up the passions of the remaining right wing core, and they don't want the inevitable backlash. Republican's would dearly love to be rid of Bush, but can't afford to alienate the rabid fauxs of the right.

Let's hope the country can make it through another twenty-two months. Maybe impeaching Rove and Gonzalez could serve as therapy in the meantime. Cheney wouldn't be a bad choice either.

He's Ba-a-ack!

That most ephemeral of bloggers, WB, has been sighted again in the guise of The Statistical Mechanic.

He has an interesting post up on Wick Rotation, a subject which can't be entirely separated from the question of just what the heck imaginary numbers are anyway. Sometimes, as Joy Christian points out in the paper cited in my previous post, things that look like imaginary numbers turn out to be volume forms, or psuedo-scalars.

Bye Bye Bell?

Many of the spookiest aspects of Quantum Mechanics are related to the apparent instantaneous action at a distance effects that surround the so-called "paradox" of Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen and Bell's Theorem, which appears to show that no theory with so-called hidden variables that are both local and realistic can satisfy the quantum mechanical principles and the experiments that have confirmed them.

Joy Christian has a new paper (quant-ph/0703179) that purports to disprove Bell's theorem. Here is the abstract:

Disproof of Bell's Theorem by Clifford Algebra Valued Local Variables
Authors: Joy Christian (Perimeter and Oxford)
Comments: 4 pages, RevTeX4

It is shown that Bell's theorem fails for the Clifford algebra valued local realistic variables. This is made evident by exactly reproducing quantum mechanical expectation value for the EPR-Bohm type spin correlations observable by means of a local, deterministic, Clifford algebra valued variable, without necess…

Republican Horoscope for the Vernal Equinox

ARIES (Mar 21- Apr 19) You are self-confident and warlike, although you agressively sought draft deferments when you were a student. Today, enjoy the afternoon, because later on you are going to get your ass kicked.

TAURUS (Apr 20 - May 20) You are firm and implacable in the face of facts, logic, and reason. Stubborness is your best quality. You tend to draw flies. Tonight: Think about heading for Costa Rica.

GEMINI (May 21 - Jun 20) You consider yourself to be outspoken and cheerful. Others mostly consider you to be an annoying asshole. Today: start a legal defense fund. Tonight: stay drunk.

CANCER (Jun 21 - Jul 22) They said you would never amount to anything but now you are a Fox News on-air personality. Your mother was wrong to recommend a job in prostitution. Tonight: stay home and lather up - Bill O'Reilly asked for your phone number.

LEO (Jul 23 - Aug 22) You are a cheerful, outgoing risk taker. That's because you are clueless about reality. You are widely con…

A Genius for Incompetence

Everyone has a purpose, they say. No doubt George Bush's is to serve as a negative example for future presidents and voters. It can't be denied that the man has a real genius for incompetence. It still astounds me though, how he managed to assemble such a truly foolish leadership in the Pentagon. Some bits extracted from Thomas E Ricks Fiasco

Doug Feith wound up overseeing the rebuilding of Iraq. Jay Garner, who as head of postwar mission in Iraq reported to him for a few months (before his replacement by the hopeless Paul Bremer) said of him:

I think he's incredibly dangerous. He's a smart guy whose electrons aren't connected, so he arc lights all the time. He can't organize anything.

Not too precise an analogy, but I get the idea - in fact I know people like that.

Feith, you may recall, was also the guy pumping out all that intelligence about Iraqi WMDs that turned out to be crap.

No Tears for Scooter

I. Lewis Libby was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice, and fully deserves any sentence he get. It's true that he's a fall guy for Rove and Cheney, but their guilt doesn't make him anymore innocent.

Besides that, he was one of the chief architects and advocates of this disastrous war. Probably only Wolfowitz is more guilty. They are both major war criminals in my book.

Hard Time

Isaac Chotiner of TNR looks at Mitt Romney's life roughing it as a Mormon Missionary:
I went to a different country and saw how different life could be if we didn't have the values and the kinds of opportunities that exist in America.
It is indeed tragic that so much of the world doesn't have the same freedoms and conveniences that America does. Whole continents are filled with the scourges of disease and poverty. I'm just glad that Romney got a small taste of how so much of humanity actually lives.

Anyhow, where exactly was he?


I was in France. Bordeaux, Paris, all over France. A great learning experience to live overseas.

It's good to know that he knows something about life in a third-world country.

via Brad DeLong

Movie Review: Babel

Another blankety-blank shaggy dog story. OK, this one did have a resolution of sorts, but most of the time I had the impression of fake suspense - phony plot devices thrown in to increase the suspense. Clearly the director had three scripts, not enough material in any of them for a movie, so he decided to glue them together - not very successfully.

One of the most irritating plot devices - a seeming bureaucratic snafu that kept help from reaching Cate Blanchett, unfortunately rang all to true after watching the catastrophe of New Orleans unfold, where hundreds of Americans died needlessly while George Bush sat on his hands.

Which, by the way, is ample justification for impeachment, just in case anyone is looking for an excuse.

Turbulence and Repeatability

It's well known that in fluid flow that becomes turbulent, details of the turbulent motion are quite unpredictable. Set up an experiment as identically as possible and watch the detailed motions over and over, and they will vary dramatically. Motions of individual tracers, velocities at a given point in space and time vary drastically for experiment to experiment - and moment to moment. Statistically, though, the behavior is quite consistent. Average over a large number of runs of the experiment, and the average of velocities and distribution of trajectories becomes quite consistent.

These facts underly the well-know inability of scientists to accurately predict the weather a few days from now, and their much better capability to predict the average long term weather - aka the climate.

These properties apply not only to actual physical experiments, but also to numerical experiments modelled on the physical experiments.

The story for long-term climate prediction is considerably mo…

Subverting Science: Your Tax Dollars at Work

Andrew C Revkin and Matthew L. Wald, writing in the New York Times, report:

A House committee released documents Monday that showed hundreds of instances in which a White House official who was previously an oil industry lobbyist edited government climate reports to play up uncertainty of a human role in global warming or play down evidence of such a role.


The authors note his close and continuing employment by the oil industry (before and after his government service) and that:

Mr. Cooney, who has no scientific background, said he had based his editing and recommendations on what he had seen in good faith as the “most authoritative and current views of the state of scientific knowledge.”


Fundamentally this is similar to having, say, Peter Woit, review and redact any String Theory papers he disapproved of. Except the Peter Woit has relevant scientific training and expertise. And he does not make his living off those who would profit from string theory being impeded.

Another anti-scienc…

Attorney's General

Having politically appointed US Attorneys is a bad idea. An awful lot of our recent AG's have come close to running afoul of the law, and one (John Mitchell) made it to the slammer. Earlier, I linked to and quoted an Alan Dershowitz piece suggesting that the law enforcement and political aspects of the AG's office be separated. A minimal step in that direction would be to make the USA's and other prosecutorial staff career employees rather than political appointees. Besides eliminating lots of opportunities for mischief, this would obviate the need for special prosecutors, independent prosecutors and the like.

Any thoughts, readers?

Road to Serfdom

Scott Horton:
There are times in the last six years when I've felt like I was trapped in one of those science fiction movies from the fifties. A focal character has discovered a group of ruthless aliens out to destroy the world, disguised as human beings and accepted in the fold of the community. He could go denounce them in a wild-eyed way to his friends and neighbors - but who would ever believe him? I got an early, very deep look into the heart of the Bush Administration. I was shocked at what I saw and at first didn't trust my own eyes and ears. That disinclination to believe what we directly observe is almost always a mistake, sometimes a serious mistake. And yet for years it's been a steep uphill struggle to get the American public to see and understand what is in front of them, and the danger it presents to our nation and the world. The Bush team are not strange monsters from outer space; in fact they are human. All too human. Their failings are the sort that commonl…

Selling Out (From Comments)

Arun, in a comment to the article below, links to this story about e-spapience, a company with a business plan reportedly based on buying reporters, scholars and others to spread misinformation on behalf of its clients. The companies principles reputedly include top people at the University of Chicago Law School and MIT's Dean of the Sloan School of Management. Reporters have reputedly been bought at the NYT and the Wall Street Journal.

If true, what is the appropriate discipline for a dean, professor, or reporter who sells his opinions to the highest bidder? I think career termination ought to be strongly considered.

Impervious to Evidence

I've started reading Thomas E. Ricks Fiasco, and it's an infuriating experience - the content, not the book. It's torture for me to be reminded of how we wound up here. Ricks starts with the immediate aftermath of Bush I's Iraq War, often considered something of a masterpiece, only with those unfortunate blunders at the end. I prefer to go back slightly more, to remind myself that Iraq I was bookended by the blunders of Bush I.

Others have detailed how Bush I, probably motivated by the desire to keep oil prices high, not only encouraged Saddam in his threats against Kuwait but all but invited him to grab a piece of it. Saddam, though, slow learner that he was, went and grabbed the whole thing, probably with the idea of trading some of it back. Panicky George I went to Margaret Thatcher to have a good cry about it, who told him to buck up, be a man, and that it would even help his popularity, as her war had helped hers. He rallied, built his coalition, and they kic…

Red Letter Day

Everything ought to be green on St Patricks day, but it's always a red letter day when Alan Dershowitz says something intelligent - I'm not sure he's even Irish anyway.
The headlines about the Bush administration's decision to fire several United States attorneys, for partisan political reasons, misses the big picture. The politicization of justice is inherent in the structure of the Justice department. In most other democratic and western countries the job performed by our Attorney General--who is the head of the Justice Department--is broken up into two separate and distinctly different jobs.


First there is the Minister of Justice who is a cabinet level politician with no law enforcement powers or responsibilities. His job is to advise the chief executive about policy, politics and partisanship. It is also to keep his boss in office, get him reelected and hurt his political opponents. There is no pretense of non-partisan objectivity in this highly politicized cabinet p…

Four on the Floor

Brad DeLong calls Mickey Kaus:
...one of the Four Horsemen of the Stupidoclypse unleashed upon the world by Marty Peretz and Michael Kinsley in that dreadful laboratory "accident."

Damn that's good! Why can't I write stuff like that? Especially about Mickey Kaus.

Debate

Gavin Schmidt and some other climate scientists debated some Denialists (Lindzen, Chrichton,...) the other day and apparently got their asses kicked. This is not a surprising result to anyone who has ever observed a scientist debate a creationist. Most scientists are lousy debaters, because they think it's all about the evidence, and want to be careful to frame their arguments clearly and precisely. Lawyers, politicians, and preachers realize that public debate is about rhetorical skill, demonstrating weakness in the enemy, and sowing confusion. For people like that, debating a scientist is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel.

Complex issues, like evolution or climate change are perfect for the merchant of doubt. An analogous situation is often seen when somebody confronts a TV pundit in debate. The victim shows up with an argument they want to talk about, but the host has an agenda. Moreover, he has a domineering personality, the crew, plenty of primetime experience, and t…

Well, I Thought it Was Pretty Funny

Chris Kelley on The Huffington Post:

Actually, the full title of the DeLay book - which came out Wednesday -- is No Retreat, No Surrender: One American's Fight. Yes, it's a story so bellicose, even the subtitle is scrappy.

And he's earned the right to talk tough, too. Not just because of his own student deferments, but also by the student deferments of Rush Limbaugh (who wrote the forward) and the "other priorities" of Sean Hannity (who wrote the preface) and the book's co-author, Stephen Mansfield.

Four fightin' Americans. Zero seconds in uniform. $25.95 at bookstores everywhere.

No retreat. No surrender. No shame.

Of course I really hate these draft dodging Republican SOBs.

War by Other Means

Lance Armstrong was on The Colbert Report a while ago. I remember the impression of barely suppressed ferocity I thought I saw in his eyes. As he underwent the ritual humiliation of a Colbert interview, it occurred to me that he might at any time leap out of his chair and rip Stephen's head off with a flick of his lion paw. Instead he submitted more or less gamely to the ritual, even getting into the spirit for a momemt when Colbert unfavorably contrasted his belly with some movie star pal's at the NYC marathon - "I think he's doped," said Lance.

He put up with all this because he was there to make a pitch for better quality care for cancer victims. His point was, and is, that for a few, very good care indeed is available, care that could be made available to all, if the country committed to it.

My impression of Armstrong that night was no doubt shaped at least partly by the fact that I was reading Daniel Coyle's Lance Armstrong's War. It's mostly …

More Dumb Denialism

Most climate denialists can be counted on to say mind numbingly dumb things in their cause, and University of Copenhagen Prof Bjarne Andresen doesn't disappoint.

University of Copenhagen Professor Bjarne Andresen has analyzed the topic in collaboration with Canadian Professors Christopher Essex from the University of Western Ontario and Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph.


It is generally assumed the Earth's atmosphere and oceans have grown warmer during the recent 50 years because of an upward trend in the so-called global temperature, which is the result of complex calculations and averaging of air temperature measurements taken around the world.


"It is impossible to talk about a single temperature for something as complicated as the climate of Earth," said Andresen, an expert on thermodynamics. "A temperature can be defined only for a homogeneous system. Furthermore, the climate is not governed by a single temperature. Rather, differences of temperatures …

High Crimes

The email trail and much else suggests that Harriet Miers, Karl Rove, Attorney General Gonzalez and his principal deputies engaged in a conspiracy to obstruct justice. That charge may be hard to prove, but there is also plenty of evidence that Gonzalez and McNulty lied to Congress.

The real question now is whether throwing a couple of more perps overboard can keep this leaky ship afloat.

We Are With Stupid

Rolling Stone held a roundtable discussion of experts on our prospects in Iraq. They aren't good, no matter what, but everybody seems to agree that the money quote is from former Air Force Chief of Staff Tony McPeak:
This is a dark chapter in our history. Whatever else happens, our country's international standing has been frittered away by people who don't have the foggiest understanding of how the hell the world works. America has been conducting an experiment for the past six years, trying to validate the proposition that it really doesn't make any difference who you elect president. Now we know the result of that experiment [laughs]. If a guy is stupid, it makes a big difference.

(via Kevin Drum}

Justice

Josh Marshall and McClatchey cut to the chase on the case of the fired prosecutors. The most politically sensitive case is that of Carol Lam, the San Diego prosecutor who put Duke Cunning ham in jail and is pursueing an investigation which involves more congressional corruption and the big contract the CIA gave a limousine company that supplied hookers.
Getting down to the real nub of the story. Here's a clip from McClatchy's overnight piece ...

In an e-mail dated May 11, 2006, Sampson urged the White House counsel's office to call him regarding "the real problem we have right now with Carol Lam," who then the U.S. attorney for southern California. Earlier that morning, the Los Angeles Times reported that Lam's corruption investigation of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif., had expanded to include another California Republican, Rep Jerry Lewis.
Cunningham is currently serving an eight-year prison sentence in Arizona. Lewis has not been cha…

Heretical Views

Brad DeLong reposts an oldie of his alledging that the movie of Lord of the Rings was in some respects superior to the book. Let me be as a hammer to this heretic.

January 02, 2002
Places Where the Lord of the Rings Movie Is Superior to the Book
I'm sick and tired of reading about how the Lord of the Rings movie is different from the book and hence inferior, so I thought I would start keeping a list of elements in Peter Jackson's movie that I think (and that others think) are clearly superior to their counterparts in Tolkien's book:

Improvement in the Logic of the Plot: Galadriel's opening, explaining just how it happens to be that the ring is still around--just why Isildur did not wish to/could not destroy it: "But the hearts of men are easily corrupted. And the ring has a will of its own."
No way. In the book this idea is developed gradually and subtly. Nor is the corrupting effect of the ring confined to men - as Galadrial is forced to concede - man, elf, …

NYT's Gore Bashing

Drudge was trumpeting a William J. Broad New York Times story he called "a hit on Gore." More like a cotton ball fight, I think. The usual suspects were trotted out: Pielke, Spencer, and Lindzen, plus an array of geologists, entomologists and others unlikely to know much about the subject. Jim Hansen allowed as how Gore sometimes highlighted the more serious of equally likely scenarios.

Criticisms of Mr. Gore have come not only from conservative groups and prominent skeptics of catastrophic warming, but also from rank-and-file scientists like Dr. Easterbook, who told his peers that he had no political ax to grind. A few see natural variation as more central to global warming than heat-trapping gases. Many appear to occupy a middle ground in the climate debate, seeing human activity as a serious threat but challenging what they call the extremism of both skeptics and zealots.

Kevin Vranes, a climatologist at the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research at the Univer…

The Trouble With the French

said political economist George Bush:
is that they don't have any word for entrepreneur.
That was an oldie but a goody from Brad DeLong.

The trouble with Bush is that no matter how dumb we make him in our caricatures, we can never quite match the reality.

Friends of Denial

Always eager to help like-minded people get together, I thought I might point our Eli's post on the AIDS/HIV denialists. Oddly enough, their arguments are more or less isomorphic to those of the climate denialists that are, the tobacco causes cancer denialists that were, and the evolution denialists that always will be.
[Peter] Duesberg, if you will, is the Richard Lindzen of AIDS denialism. A member of the US National Academy of Science he did important early work on retroviruses. According to Duesberg

HIV is harmless, a mere "passenger" virus ..."To pretend to think that HIV causes AIDS is politically correct, socially attractive and very,very fundable"... even in "the freest of all countries, as George Bush calls the US, nonconformists are excommunicated at all social and scientific levels"
These guys could trade lines

Duesberg argues that recreational drugs are what destroy the immune system, not a retrovirus.

Baruk Khazad!

The DC knives are being sharpened for Alberto Gonzales's political scalp. Josh Marshall:
With the rapid pace of events, I suspect it's only a matter of time before the pressure starts to build for Alberto Gonzales's resignation. But this isn't about Alberto Gonzales. This isn't a guy with his own political strategy, his own list of political chits to arrange or grand strategies to advance. He's George W. Bush's consigliere. He gets done what the president wants done...
Consigliere? I don't think so. Capo maybe, button man more likely. But he is Bush's man, in a way Rumsfeld never was (he was Cheney's guy), and Bush won't give up on him easily. If he goes down, it will be because it was necessary to save Rove, or Bush himself.

NYT Comic Moment

The NYT has an editorial calling for Bush to can Alberto Gonzales. Their logic can hardly be faulted: he has failed to carry out his duties to enforce the Nation's laws. The comedy is in thinking that Bush would fire him for that - that is exactly what he appointed him for.
During the hearing on his nomination as attorney general, Alberto Gonzales said he understood the difference between the job he held — President Bush’s in-house lawyer — and the job he wanted, which was to represent all Americans as their chief law enforcement officer and a key defender of the Constitution. Two years later, it is obvious Mr. Gonzales does not have a clue about the difference.

He has never stopped being consigliere to Mr. Bush’s imperial presidency. If anyone, outside Mr. Bush’s rapidly shrinking circle of enablers, still had doubts about that, the events of last week should have erased them...

The F.B.I. has been using powers it obtained under the Patriot Act to get financial, business and te…

Dell's Moronic Site

This is ridiculous. After twenty-five minutes on Dell's stupid site, I could not figure out how to specify and order one of their blankety-blank computers. I've never had this problem before.

Maybe it's time to buy a Mac.

Republi-Porn Hypocrisy

The CPAC a week or so ago was a get together of the frothing-at-the-mouth right set. This year's recipient of their Jean Kirkpatric Academic Freedom award was an ex-Corporal Sanchez, an ex-Marine who alledged that he was persecuted by liberals at Columbia. Besides the award, he got appearances on Hannity and Colmes and O'Reilly, a picture with Michelle Malkin, and some quality time and picture with Ann Coulter, when she wasn't being hugged by Mitch Romney or calling John Edwards a faggot.

The punchline, though, is it turns out that ex-Corporal Sanchez has another identity as gay porn star Rod Majors.

Max Blumenthal has the story here.

He also has a few ruminations on the gap between behavior and rhetoric among those who practice what he calls "the politics of resentment."

Coulter's now-famous "faggot" remark was not an aberration, but rather a symbol of the politics of resentment that propels the conservative movement and its elected Republican surrog…

Wretched Excess?

Actually my title is my attempt to answer Wolfgang's question about stretch limousines here.
So why are there so many of them on this island?

Choosing Pizza Delivery as a Career

Harvard Physics Professor Melissa Franklin won an award recently, so Lumo cleverly used the occasion to put up one of his women are stupid posts. Naturally, he cited as evidence a Scientific American article which said no such thing:
...sex differences in performance on standardized tests of general intelligence are negligible, with insignificant differences sometimes favoring women, sometimes favoring men
Equally naturally, a bunch of his acolytes eagerly endorsed and exemplified his thesis - though of course they weren't all women - I don't think.
UPDATE
Franklin:
What hasn’t changed is the fact that many men think that women aren’t the smartest,” Franklin said...
Lumo:
Well, another thing that hasn't changed is that statistically, they are right...

Shaggy Dog Story

What a frigging swindle! 776 impenetrable pages and it's a blankety-blank shaggy dog story! One long and ultimately inane shaggy dog story. OK, so I can concede the guy has some talent, not to mention improbable erudition on a number of unlikely subjects. There were many points in this book where I could see that the author knew how to tell a story, and had a deft touch with odd imagery. Telling a story wasn't on his program though - his goal was to suck the reader in just enough to fall for his little prank.

I can see why Mr. Pynchon scrupulously avoids any kind of publicity or exposure to readers. I would certainly be tempted to pick a fight with him if I met him on the street. Just for wasting weeks of my time.

I had started a more detailed review, about 500 pages in. At that point I rather liked the book, despite the drug addled meandering of the text. For the last hundred pages or so, though, I began to suspect that none of the plot lines of the story would ever be resolved…

Supporting Our Soldiers

Supporting our troops has been a Republican mantra, and a lie, from the start. CQ has an article detailing senior Republicans' knowledge of the problems at Walter Reed long before the current dustup:
Senior Republicans who knew about problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center while their party controlled Congress insist they did all they could to prod the Pentagon to fix them.

But C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., former chairman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, said he stopped short of going public with the hospital’s problems to avoid embarrassing the Army while it was fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Young and Thomas M. Davis III, R-Va., the former chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, both acknowledged in interviews that they were aware of patient care problems at Walter Reed long before The Washington Post exposed them two weeks ago.

These losers avoided doing their duty to avoid embarassing whom? The Army? Or George Bush? I hope their constituents…

Career Advice

Every year somebody gets the job of trying to scare the new postdocs straight. I've been working on my lecture, just in case:

OK, so now you've got your PhD. Now you think that the rest should be gravy. Well I've got some news for you, boys and girls: the hard part just started. Two years from now, three of you will have dropped out and five more will have washed out, forced into a humiliating and degrading career at Burger King or Goldman Sachs. Two more will have been killed or crippled by falling met towers or errant anemometers, or, like some of your unlucky predecessors, fried by the weather radar. At least one more will be caught having an affair with the Division secretary, and shot or worse by your outraged spouse.

Some few among you may be found to have the right stuff to stick it out despite miserable and brutal working conditions; inadequate, dangerous and unavailable computers and experimental equipment: obnoxious, incompetent and senile colleagues; and t…

Evil Nature

Why are so many conservatives evil? I guess it's obvious in some cases: Cheney, Coulter, Limbaugh, Perle and others have sold their souls to the Devil, and he is a tough bill collector. So what about New Mexico's senior senator Pete Domenici. He should be looking forward to a distinguished retirement, but instead gets caught lying to cover up Bush administration criminality? And how abow about all those ordinary seeming citizens who vote for the crooks, racists and their enablers?

There might be a mix of explanations. Some are just nuts. Others were brainwashed at some point in their lives, or maybe just blew their brains out with drugs. My guess, though, is that the leading cause of conservatism is chip on the shoulder syndrome. A lot of people feel that life gave them a bad deal, and are filled with envy and hatred of those they consider more fortunate. Still others know they got a better deal than they deserved, and feel obliged to disdain and hate those less lucky.

Geometry and the Heathens

First Peter Woit of Not Even Wrong and now Lubos Motl have noted a recent exchange between Steven Weinberg and Friedrich Hehl in Physics Today. Weinberg had said, what's the big deal about torsion - it's just another tensor. Hehl disagreed. And Weinberg added: I still don't get it.

With his talent for seeing every fragment of reality as part of the the titanic struggle between good and evil, Lubos casts himself as the heroic defender of Weinberg - like Weinberg needed some defense, as almost everyone would call him as one of the half-dozen or fewer greatest living physicists. He then launches one of his patented invective streams against Hehl.

The thing is, Hehl has a point, and Weinberg chooses willfully to ignore it. The point is that all tensors are not equal, or at any rate, if they are, some tensors are more equal than others. To make an analogy with a different domain of physics, there are many vectors in fluid dynamics, but the fluid velocity has a priviledged a…

The Late, Great, Bell Labs

Arun has a post lamenting the decline and fall of one of the great technological treasures of the twentieth century, Bell Labs. The focus of the post is a song celebrating the greatness of Bell Labs - ironically, it was already a posthumous celebration, commissioned by the parasitic growth that ultimately consumed and destroyed Bell Labs, Lucent Technologies (now part of Alcatel, I think).

Bell Labs research was funded by the profits of the AT&T telephone monopoly, and when that monopoly was dismembered, Bell Labs was spun off as Lucent. Fundamental research is a hothouse plant though, and life in the new world where every component was expected be a profit center was not congenial to it.

Telephone calls are cheaper now, of course, but the loss was great, and it is hard to see such an institution existing again in the modern world. In principle, government labs could carry out a mission like this, but in practice they are usually too subject to the whims of political intrigue. C…

The Walter Reed Affair

A colleague pointed out this quote from Dances with the Blue-Faced Picts, er, Braveheart:
Longshanks: Not the archers. My scouts tell me their archers are miles away and no threat to us. Arrows cost money. Use up the Irish. Their dead cost nothing.

Longshanks, of course, was reincarnated as Donald Rumsfeld. Or maybe Dick Cheney. Or Bush. Or all three.

So it was no great surprise to learn of the scandalous conditions our wounded soldiers suffered in Walter Reed Hospital. Dana Priest and Anne Hull dug up the story for the Washington Post - Dana Priest in particular is a shining light for the often crappy WP. When the Republicans still ruled Congress they might have been able to hush this up, but that's tougher now.

A general and the Secretary of the Army have already been canned. I would say that at least one more general looks severely endangered, but of course the blame doesn't stop there.
YESTERDAY THE Post reported that Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley heard years ago from a veteran…