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Showing posts from July, 2007

A Boy and His Felafel

As I mentioned in a previous post, Fox News Thug Bill O'Reilly decided to go after sponsors of The Daily Kos a bit ago. Kos returned the favor, provoking protests from the likes of our friend Lumo.

Since then, the battle has escalated a bit, provoking Atrios to proclaim it "felafel day." For those with short memories, this is a reference to a successful sexual harrassment suit by a female former Fox News producer against O'Reilly, who had the habit of calling her up and asking for phone sex while masturbating himself. O'Reilly blustered about extortion for a bit but shut up and payed quick when she filed transcripts which made it clear that she had a detailed record (recording) of the incidents. One incidental bit of comedy occurred when, according to the transcripts, he suggested sexual acts involving a felafel - most think he meant a loofah - I doubt that a felafel would stand up to a shower, much less hard use in a shower.

Brad DeLong extracts some excerpts …

A Little Truthiness?

The Washington Post's Ruth Marcus has a column today in which she argues that:

In his Senate testimony last week, Gonzales once again dissembled and misled. He was too clever by seven-eighths. He employed his signature brand of inartful dodging -- linguistic evasion, poorly executed. The brutalizing he received from senators of both parties was abundantly deserved.

But I don't think he actually lied about his March 2004 hospital encounter with then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. I certainly don't think he could be charged with -- much less convicted of -- perjury.

Her argument is essentially that Gonzales was obliged to tell some of the truth, some of the time. She finds some support in that the Supreme's have apparently ruled that the perjury statutes should be very narrowly construed, in that the witness oblidged only to state the literal truth, even if that literal truth is misleading and only a partial answer - which of makes a mockery of the "truth, the whole …

Tillman

Arun has some of the bizarre details of the killing of Pat Tillman and the subsequent cover up. Most suspicious are:

The doctors ... said that the bullet holes [three bullet holes in Tillman's forehead] were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.

And:

White House, Pentagon cite executive privilege to hold up documents on friendly fire victim Tillman

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan adds another sinister piece to the puzzle:
I keep thinking this incident is out of a movie. The heroism, the sacrifice, the tragedy, the lies, the cover-up, and the unthinkable. I should repeat I think it's almost certainly a friendly fire accident. But too much still doesn't add up. And then there's this: his diary was destroyed?

Holy coverup, Batman!

Southern Racism

...Seems to be alive and well in Jena, Louisiana. Of course racism is hardly a purely Southern phenomenon, but I find it hard to imagine the events in Jena transpiring in any town I've ever lived in. One version of the story is told by Amy Goodman:
Last week in Detroit, the NAACP held a mock funeral for the N-word. But a chilling case in Louisiana shows us how far we have to go to bury racism. This story begins in the small central Louisiana town of Jena. Last September, a black high school student requested the school’s permission to sit beneath a broad, leafy tree in the hot schoolyard. Until then, only white students sat there.

The next morning, three nooses were hanging from the tree. The black students responded en masse. Justin Purvis, the kid who first sat under the tree, told filmmaker Jacquie Soohen: “They [other black students] said, ‘Y’all want to go stand under the tree?’ We said, ‘Yeah.’ They said, ‘If you go, I’ll go. If you go, I’ll go.’ One person went, the next p…

Physicists as Lousy Husbands

Peter Woit has a nice review of and commentary on a recently published book by Stephen Hawking's ex-wife.
The Hawkings were married back in 1965, at a time when Stephen’s illness had already become apparent, and his prognosis for long-term survival was not good at all. For the next 25 years, Jane spent most of her time in the back-breaking labor of caring for an invalid husband while raising three children. While Stephen went from success to success, the center of attention due to his brilliant scientific work and triumph over his disability, Jane received little support, encouragement, or recognition for the sacrifices she was making, and one would have to be a saint to not develop some resentment for the situation and for the way it ended. She tells the whole story in some detail, and it’s in many ways a rather sad one.

Among the sources of conflict between them were: religion (she was a believer, he a fervent atheist), his family (described as definitely not nice to her), and his…

Vietnam

The most damning information in Nixon's White House tapes has nothing to do with Watergate. It's the conversations that show that Nixon and Kissinger knew in 1971 that the war was lost. Kissinger advised him to wait until after the election, so as not to jeapodize his chances. Another 23,000 American soldiers died, as well as many times as many Vietnamese.

The scary part is that Nixon was brilliant compared to Bush.

Wack Jobs

The blotchy one, AKA Bill O'Reilly, has managed to build a career on his talents as a schoolyard bully. Like any schoolyard bully, he likes to pick on those smaller than himself. In his relentless quest to find more victims to satisfy the blood lust of his sychophantic devotees, he managed to find some some nasty comments about him among the tens of thousands that The Daily Kos gets every week. This provoked him to launch a jihad against Kos and Kos's sponsors, managing to intimidate Jet Blue into asking that its name be taken off some Kos function's sponsors list.

O'Reilly's charge against Kos: he was a "hater." Pretty funny, since hordes of mouth breathers proceeded to post venomous invective against Kos on the O'Leilly site. Kos retaliated by asking his readers to protest to Fox advertisers when Fox launched any of its usual lies and distortions.

This, in turn, provoked a scream of outrage from my favorite Czech Wack Job. His total lack of a se…

Guess Who?

From Garrison Keillor's Homegrown Democrat:
A man with almost nothing admirable in his resume. He has been cruelly exposed as incompetent, inarticulate, and dishonest. His innattention is remarkable. He sat and was briefed on the danger of a hurricane wiping out a major American city, and without asking a single question, he got up from the table and walked away and resumed his monthlong vacation. He played guitar as New Orleans was flooded. It took him four days to realize he ought to pay attention. When the tsunami killed a hundred thousand people in southeast Asia, he was on vacation and it took him seventy-two hours to issue a statement of sympathy. A small petulant man who keeps diminishing with time . . .

It's not a puzzle of course, just a reminder of why I really hate these SOBs.

One quibble: he didn't "realize" anything. The time lags were the time lags before his sychophants dared to interrupt his vacation to tell him that he had better pay attenti…

More Potter Bashing^2

Potter bashers have historically been a rather scarce commodity, which gave them a certain market value. Antonia S. Byatt, who evidently is a writer of some reputation (not quite sufficient to come to my attention, however) is probably the second most prominent such death eater. She reviewed HP 5 in the New York Times Harry Potter And The Childish Adult in 2003.

Like other infidels, she can't quite figure out what the fuss is about:
What is the secret of the explosive and worldwide success of the Harry Potter books? Why do they satisfy children and — a much harder question — why do so many adults read them? I think part of the answer to the first question is that they are written from inside a child's-eye view, with a sure instinct for childish psychology. But then how do we answer the second question? Surely one precludes the other.
Her title announces both her diagnosis and her critical strategy. The last sentence is another clue. It's a thought that would never occur t…

Tour de Zaster

The implosion of the Tour de France is only the latest portent of the oncoming apocalypse. It's probably true that no other sport tests for doping as often and thoroughly as the TdF, but ongoing tide of revelations and disqualifications is highly unsettling. With Rassmussen's expulsion, the Yellow Jersey is again tainted.

Rassmussen's case is expecially bothersome, since it seems clear that he doped but had no positive test. Since the Italian dope doctors are implicated, that casts a dark shadow on many others, especially Armstong.

At least it's a distraction from the much worse corruption in the Presidency.

Bullshit!

In last night's debate, Clinton and Biden each claimed that pulling out of Iraq would take at least a year. I don't buy it. We occupied Iraq in weeks, against considerable opposition. Merely getting out, very likely with little opposition, is unlikely to take many times longer. That said, there might be very good reasons to avoid such precipitous withdrawal, but physical impossibility is a phony one.

JR & JRRT

When Kevin Drum confessed that he wasn't blogging much over the weekend on account of the arrival of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows he got a lot of grief from the usual suspects who couldn't resist the chance to say how much they despised the books and those who liked them.

Your mileage may vary, I suppose, and it would probably be a dull world if everybody had the same tastes, but I always suspect that those who despise such things are missing a piece of their souls - doubtless tucked into a Horcrux somewhere.

I was an initial skeptic, and not just about Jo Rowling. I was a young adult who had just graduated from college and been drafted into the army when I first encountered Tolkien, and as a science fiction fan, had a deep distrust of swords and sorcery fantasy. Still, it was already clear in 1966 that Tolkien was going to be big, so I consulted an expert, my old high school debate partner who had gone on to become president of the MIT science fiction society. When h…

YouTube Debate

As a certifiable old codger, I didn't expect to be blown away by the YouTube debate, but it was actually pretty good. The questions asked were much better than the idiotic ones the reporters always ask.

The candidates answers - not so much.

I liked best two of the candidates I wouldn't vote for: Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich. Gravel pretty much put out unvarnished truths, including many that people don't want to hear: taxation is the most and perhaps only effective way to constrain energy use, and, yes, all those soldiers who died in Vietnam, including my friends, neighbors and Army buddies, did die in vain. That last does not diminish their valor or sacrifice, but it does indict those who sent and led them.

I liked Kucinich, even though I think most of his ideas are nuts, because he reminds me of Dobby the house elf.

How to Read and Why

... is the title of a book by Harold Bloom. By most accounts, it is a good book. I might even read it sometime, perhaps after I get through reading How to have Sex and Why. By which I mean that I've never had any doubts about why, and have acquired enough understanding of how that I feel no particular need for coaching from a 70 year old (his age when he wrote it) Yale professor of literature.

So what do I care about this self-styled "master critic" and his opinions? About seven years ago, on his seventieth birthday, the Wall Street Journal published his pompous and dismissive review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone entitled Can 35 Million Book Buyers Be Wrong? Yes.

Popular literature that they don't get is common target for aging critics. Edmund Wilson set off against J R R Tolkien in similar fashion forty or so years earlier. Of course, I shouldn't dismiss his critique out of hand. So what does he have to say? He opens with:

Taking arms against…

No Shirt, Shylock

Josh Marshall finds this quote in a Business Week interview with Sec. of State Condileeza Rice:
From Maria Bartiromo's interview of Condi Rice in the current issue of BusinessWeek:

MB: Would you consider a position in business or on Wall Street?
CR: I don't know what I'll do long-term. I'm a terrible long-term planner.

The Sky Pilot

The President only seems to meet with reliably right-wing true believers, but those who meet with him are frequently impressed with his eerie serenity. With his policies and programs in ruins all about him, he seems untroubled by self-doubt or any other kind of doubt.

Glenn Greenwald reflects on that, and on NYT columnist David Brooks' recent membership in such a group:
As George Bush has become more and more isolated, and as his presidency has collapsed around him, he has increasingly arranged White House events where like-minded admirers come and gather around him and genuflect to his greatness. As The Washington Post's Peter Baker recently reported, these events are attended exclusively by small groups of right-wing pundits, "journalists" and neoconservative theorists and activists who sit around the President and both soak in and bolster the Rightness of his choices.

NYT columnist David Brooks was fortunate enough to have been invited to the most recent such gath…

Impeachment Now!

If this Ewen McGaskill and Julian Borger story in the Guardian has it right, impeachment is not only necessary, but urgent. It claims that Cheney has persuaded Bush to attack Iran. Such a course will probably be catastrophic for a generation or more.
The balance in the internal White House debate over Iran has shifted back in favour of military action before President George Bush leaves office in 18 months, the Guardian has learned.
The shift follows an internal review involving the White House, the Pentagon and the state department over the last month. Although the Bush administration is in deep trouble over Iraq, it remains focused on Iran. A well-placed source in Washington said: "Bush is not going to leave office with Iran still in limbo."

...

The vice-president, Dick Cheney, has long favoured upping the threat of military action against Iran. He is being resisted by the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the defence secretary, Robert Gates.

...

"The red line is …

Bombing Saudi Arabia

Joe Lieberman, John McCain and other nutcases want to bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran. The President will veto any legislation that crimps his ability to attack Iran. Granting that Iran may be providing some minimal support to Shia militias in Iran, what about Saudi Arabia? Most of the 9/11 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia. Most of the al Quaeda in Mesopotania foreign fighters in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia.

So why are the Saudis immune?

Couldn't have anything to do with the close financial and personal links of certain Saudis and certain Bushs, could it?

WSJ: Premature Mourning

Image
I admit joining with those who mourned the WSJ in advance of Murdoch's takeover. Fortunately, we can always count on the WSJ editorial board to do something to prove that there isn't really all that much to lose. Many in the blogosphere have been having fun with the following ludicrously misinterpreted graph.

The supposed point is a Laffer curve - showing that revenues decline with increasing tax rate beyond a certain point. The curve drawn is an absurd misfit to the data even with the odd outlier of Norway included. Brad DeLong points out the reason why the Norway outlier looks so odd:
One more point, with respect to "omitting Norway": Personally I see no need to omit Norway. I do see a need to plot the Norway point on the graph correctly. The revenues plotted on the vertical scale include oil excise taxes levied on corporations. The tax rates plotted on the horizontal scale do not--hence the Norway "tax rate" of 28% rather than the correct 52%. Move Norwa…

Schutz: GMoTP 2.0 - 2.3

Enter the main characters in his drama: Differential Manifolds and Tensors

We have seen that the possibility of defining continuous maps (or functions) is the key ingredient that makes topological spaces interesting. A differentiable manifold is a space on which differentiable functions can live. The physical space in which we live is thought to be such a space, and so are many other interesting mathematical objects, such as the space of solutions to differential equations. Fundamentally, a differentiable manifold is a space which looks locally like R^n. Each point in the manifold has an open neighborhood which has a continuous 1-1 map onto an open set of R^n for some n.

2.1 Definition of a Manifold
The key point here is that for a general manifold M, no single map from M->R^n will do. In general, multiple overlapping maps (an Atlas) will be needed, and for M to be a diffentiable manifold, those maps must overlap smoothly, permitting differentiable coordinate transformations in t…

High Crimes and Misdemeanors

The President, Vice President, and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

.............................US Constitution, Article II Section 4.

The I word is gaining currency as the President's intransigence increases and his popularity plumbs the depths. I know of no evidence of either treason or bribery affecting the President directly, so an impeachment would hang on those last four words: "high crimes and misdemeanors." What do they mean?

The Wikipedia article of the same title includes British and American history, including this:
The 1450 impeachment of William de la Pole, 1st Duke of Suffolk, a descendant of Michael's, was next to allege charges under this title. He was charged with using his influence to obstruct justice, cronyism, and wasting public money...

The Wikipedia article and other sources that I have consulted agree that the "…

Thucydides I.5

Chapter: I.5 ppg. 41-51
Maps: Maps of Bernard Suzanne.
This chapter is returns to the period at the end of the events of chapter 3. It is concerned mainly with the speech of the Corinthians to the Lacadaemonian Confederacy, advocating war with Athens, and the fate of Themistocles, Athenian hero of the struggle against Persia, and Pausanias, the Spartan King previously recalled for excessive ambition. In each case these latter betrayed the trust of their fellow citizens in their ambition for power and prestige. Themistocles made out slightly better of the two, escaping to Persia and finding some success there in the service of its king. Pausanias met a more macabre fate, after falling victim to his own treachery and a Spartan "sting" operation.

So how did the Corinthians argue? I think we can say that a core argument was that if we don't fight them "over there," we will have to fight them here: If wise men remain quiet, while they are
not injured, brave men a…

The Ghosts of Hogwarts

The ghosts of Hogwarts pay a price for electing to continue a diaphanous and immaterial existence in this world rather than letting themselves be swept on to the next. That price is an existence without touch, taste, or flavor. The price of translation of Jo Rowling's books onto the screen is starting to look similar. I saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix last night and was rather disappointed.

To be sure, non-reader fans with me seemed to disagree. They found the movie more fast paced and interesting than most of the others. Director David Yates stripped away anything remotely superfluous in a long book, and that resulted in considerable violence to the story it told. Nuance, sublety and wit were among the victims. So was much of the flavor.

I thought the scenes in the book where the dreaming Harry sees through Voldemort's eyes were among the most vivid and memorable. For me, somehow, Daniel Radcliffe writhing in bed and grunting doesn't quite capture it. …

Failure is Not an Option

It's more aptly described as a feature when you: Launch a war under blatantly false pretenses.Fail to commit adequate troops and equipment to the task.Greviously misunderstand the nature of the enemy and of the war you have launched.Fail to plan for any of the likely contingencies.Fritter away the moral high ground.Refuse to accept or comprehend what is actually happening.Refuse to change course when it becomes obvious that you have blundered.The Moral of the Story: Stupidity has consequences. Reality will have its day. Facts sometimes catch up with lies.

Schutz: GMoTP

1.3 Real Analysis
Well he's not going to teach us much real analysis in 2 pages is he? Shutz has three topics here: definition of an analytic function, an operator on a function, and the commutator of two operators.

1.4 Group Theory
The basics: group axioms, abelian groups, continuous groups, subgroups, group isomorphisms and homomorphisms. Much more on Lie groups will follow in Chapter 3.

1.5 Linear Algebra
He really does expect us to know a bit about this - he mainly just reviews a few definitions.

1.6 Algebra of Square Matrices
There is some content for review here, and it and more will be needed in the work to come. Definitions and basics. Should be able to prove identities 1.41- 1.46. Stuff like Det(AB)=Det(A)Det(B).

1.7 BibliographyThe first nice bibliography section.

Schutz: Geometrical Methods of Theoretical Physics 1.1,2

Sections 1.1 and 1.2 are devoted to introducing some ideas of topology needed for the definition of a manifold. R^n is the prototypical manifold, and Schutz sets about defining its open sets with a Euclidean Metric and some variations.

Much or most of modern mathematics can trace its ancestry back to Decartes' marriage of geometry and algebra. The idea of identifying points in space with pairs (or triples, for 3-D) of numbers was the key element, and has a natural generalization to n-tuples of numbers representing points in n dimensional space.

Topology represents space stripped down to an essence - that essence that preserves continuity. What do we mean by continuity anyway, and how do we represent it? One key attribute is that we expect that there should be points arbitrarily close to any other point. Topologists found that they could boil that essence down to the notion of a set and the behavior of its open subsets - but I won't spoil any punchlines here - if you want to…

...A Tale Told by an Idiot

The President gave a speech on Iraq today. Rather than listen to my predictable reaction, why not listen to liberal hater, former Bush worshipper, and former war promoter Andrew Sullivan:
He's arguing he didn't decide to go to war; Saddam did. He's saying he agrees with his Republican critics. He's blaming the generals for all the combat decisions that have made this war a failure. His blaming Tommy Franks specifically for the troop levels was particularly piquant. So he gave him a Medal of Freedom anyway? Worse, the president conflated every single radical element in the Middle East into one amorphous anti-American entity. It appears that he sees Shiite militias, Hezbollah, al Qaeda, Hamas and the Sunni insurgents as indistinguishable. He has even said baldly that the people bombing and murdering in Iraq are the same people who attacked us on 9/11. The Shiite militias? The Baathist dead-enders?
What a friggin maroon - and I don't mean Andy - at least not at this p…

Lovely New Tactic

Another dandy new denialist trick is in operation. Many of the usual climate denialist bozos have been popularizing the site of a fifteen year old from Portland Maine who has put up a web site attacking Al Gore's climate warnings. This is the denialist equivalent of those terrorists who load up a kid with nails and explosives and send him out on a suicide mission, the idea in each case being the notion that no-one would pick on a kid.

The kid in question, it seems, has a little problem with details and facts, though she has been clever enough to set up a mechanism for the (dis)believers to finance her.

Picking on a kid *is* a dirty job, and one that would certainly be beneath a worthy Rabett if it weren't for the fact that certain climate liars have taken to promoting her blog. Thus provoked, Eli looks at and refutes some of her claims here and here. Familiar themes links his stories. In each case, our teen critic has cited reports she failed to read and understand and misq…

Discounting the Future

Lumos has posted a speech by Czech President Vaclav Klaus on economists and climate. He (Klaus) manages to slip in some climate change minimization, but his real point is to discuss discounting the future.
Economists are adding other contexts - technological progress, human adaptability, increasing wealth (that moves the mankind further away from the subsistence level, allowing us to treat Nature ever more "generously"). Their main tool to acknowledge this context is to discount the future i.e. to give events the right weight that depends on the moment when they occur. A one-thousand-crown bill is "more" than what it will be in 2017 (even if it remains in the form of a banknote or a constant record in a certain bank account): this is a clear conclusion of theories in economics, any other theories about the real life, as well as common sense.
I don't think any economist would argue with his example applied to direct monetary questions. Once you start talking mor…

Another BRIC in the Wall

Brazil, Russia, India, and China (the BRIC countries) are piling up huge reserves of American currency. Brad DeLong links to Brad Setser and has some quotes:
As Felix notes, I am reserve-obsessed. For good reason, I would argue. Right now, central bank reserve accumulation is driving the global flow of capital. Private markets have been out-gunned.

We now know that the BRIe economies -- Brazil, Russia and India -- added $200b to their reserves in the first half of the year. Close to $199b to be exact. Russia accounted for $102b of the increase, Brazil chipped in $61.5 and India added another $36b. A tiny bit of that was valuation gains; most of it was real. $200b -- $400b annualized -- is a phenomenal sum.

We don't yet know how many reserves the BRICs added in the first half of the year because we don't yet know how much China added to its already very large stock of reserves. We do know it added $135b in q1 -- and reportedly another $45b in April, but that hasn'…

Conspiracy Theory

From E.A. Torriero's Chicago Tribune article:
Fearing complacency among the American people over possible terror threats, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in Chicago Tuesday that the nation faces a heightened chance of an attack this summer.

Combine that with the fact that I've now heard at least a couple of right wing talking heads speculate the Bush Presidency might be "rescued" by a major terrorist attack on American soil, and if you aren't nervous, then you haven't seen the Mel Gibson - Julia Roberts Conspiracy Theory recently enough. Or maybe Michael Moore's Farenheit 911.

Book Blogging: Geometrical Methods of Mathematical Physics

Another book, because reading one book at a time is not nearly enough.

Next on our menu: Geometrical Methods of Mathematical Physics, by Bernard Schutz, Cambridge University Press 1980. (Available from Amazon) for $32.

First, let me say a few words about the physical artifact. Most CUP paperbacks I own are excellently bound, with pages sewn in signatures. That is not the case for my copy of Schutz. After a bit of hard use the glued binding has cracked, and the first sixty-six pages have split from the rest and partially separated from the spine. I also have the impression that the printing is slightly muddy, or too small, or otherwise unsuited to a text very liberally festooned with subscripts and superscripts, some of which are themselves further decorated. There is a hardback version for about five times the cost.

So why bother? The book is a compact, lucid, and relatively elementary presentation of a bunch of geometric ideas which have become central to modern physics. After…

Thudydides Book I Chapter 4

Recall that when we left Thucydides, Sparta (the Lacedaemonians) had just decided that they had to fight Athens. In this, they were motivated less by the entreaties of their Corinthian allies than by fear of Athen's growing power. Thucydides now turns to a flashback, recounting the events between the end of the war with the Medes, in which the two parties were allies, and the Congress of Lacedaemon, where the Spartans decided on war.

That period began with further joint action against the Medes, with Sparta still in the lead. The Spartan general Pausanias turned out to be such a jerk that the allies revolted and Athens took the lead:

Meanwhile Pausanias, son of Cleombrotus, was sent out
from Lacedaemon as commander-in-chief of the Hellenes,
with twenty ships from Peloponnese. With him sailed the
Athenians with thirty ships, and a number of the other
allies. They made an expedition against Cyprus and
subdued most of the island, and afterwards
against Byzantium, which was in the …

Never Mind: Some Very Bad Science

A new WSJ report by Tara Parker-Pope says that the NIH halted studies of hormone therapy in menopausal and post menopausal women based on a stunningly inaccurate reading of the data. The study showed that, overall, women in the study receiving hormone thearapy had higher rates of bad outcomes (cancer, heart disease) than women who didn't. This triggered a massive shift from such therapy by women and their doctors.

The new study of the same data shows that the adverse statistical effects were confined to women over sixty. For women in their fifties, the story was different:
WHI data published in April in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that women in their 50s who took a combination of estrogen and progestin or estrogen alone had a 30% lower risk of dying than women who didn't take hormones.

Last month, the New England Journal of Medicine reported that 50-59-year-old women in the WHI who regularly used estrogen alone showed a 60% lower risk for severe coro…

PC Police on the Job at Tufts

It's almost amusing how much more power of censorship the neocon-Likudnik right wields in the US compared to in Israel. Sara Roy of Harvard made the mistake of writing a book review that didn't meet the AIPAC test. Tufts Fletcher Forum on World Affairs, which commissioned, approved, and then rejected the review learned the fear of powerful donors. A similar affair occurred at Yale last year, when powerful right wing donors with AIPAC connections were able to kill the appointment of Juan Cole to a professorship.

Getting the Lead Out

This probably won't be popular with the wingnut right, but new economic studies show that the most important anti-crime program might be getting rid of lead containing paint. Shankar Vedantam has the story in the Washington Post.
Rudy Giuliani never misses an opportunity to remind people about his track record in fighting crime as mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001...

Although crime did fall dramatically in New York during Giuliani's tenure, a broad range of scientific research has emerged in recent years to show that the mayor deserves only a fraction of the credit that he claims. The most compelling information has come from an economist in Fairfax who has argued in a series of little-noticed papers that the "New York miracle" was caused by local and federal efforts decades earlier to reduce lead poisoning.

The theory offered by the economist, Rick Nevin, is that lead poisoning accounts for much of the variation in violent crime in the United States. It offers …

Experiment in Integration

Joel Achenbach has a meditation on being the nine-year-old Boy on The Bus in Gainesville Florida in 1970. It's more personal than political, but I think he is disappointed at how little was accomplished as a result. Segregation has returned to a significant extent and now the Roberts court has rejected much of the premise.

Every morning when I was in fifth grade, I walked a mile down the road to Stephen Foster Elementary, my neighborhood school. Then I got on a yellow school bus and rode across town. The Supreme Court had issued a desegregation order. It was 1970. Men had landed on the moon twice. Now white kids and black kids would go to the same schools.

...

It was, in retrospect, an ambitious social experiment. It was also clumsy, and at some level outrageous, reducing all of us to a single characteristic of white or black.

For me it was ultimately a good experience, a chance to

get outside the bubble of the white Southern Baptist neighborhood where my eccentric Unitarian, single-…

Risky Business

Long airline flights, and maybe even short ones, present a significant risk of deep vein blood clots, a possibly life threatening condition. Key risk factors seem to be immobility and the low oxygen pressures found in planes. The old and unhealthy are most at risk.

Apparently the new Boeing 787 will fly with higher oxygen pressures, which is good, but I think it would be a good idea if long airline flights were required to have some sort of stand up bar or similar facility permitting people to get up and move around.

Roger Still the Man

Despite many moments of apparent mortality, Roger Federer still had too much for Rafael Nadal in the Wimbeldon final. They are both great players, but I'm a Federer fan, mostly because I hate all that stupid grunting.

Time?

The New York Times is not only the nations most influential newspaper, it's also long been a relatively liberal voice in one of the most liberal regions of the US. New York city was the principal victim on 9/11, so it's unsurprising that the thirst for revenge was strong there, and that might help explain why the NYT largely rolled over and played dead as the Bushies emitted their vast cloud of lies in support of an Iraq invasion. In the intervening six years, spurred by the Judith Miller fiasco and the increasingly threadbare texture of Bush deceptions, the paper has made some stumbling strides in the direction of journalism.

Today the NYT editorial board published a long, thoughtful editorial advocating that we get out of Iraq. It's very late in the game. Most of America is well ahead of it, but better late than never.
It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit.



Like many Americans, we ha…

Bleak Arithmetic

Kagro-X at The Daily Kos looks at the bleak arithmetic confronting any attempt to enforce congressional subpoenas against the White House.
I'll add this refresher on what typically happens when subpoenas are defied: The house that issued the subpoenas can vote to hold non-compliant subpoena targets in contempt of Congress, but those charges are prosecuted only at the discretion of... the US Attorney for the District of Columbia.

Imagine that. In the middle of an investigation of how it came to be that the US Attorneys were prosecuting political enemies and coddling political friends, it's up to the US Attorneys to decide whether or not to prosecute their political friends for refusing to answer questions about the scheme that started the investigation in the first place.

Sounds fair.

But has the US Attorney ever done that before? Declined to prosecute a political friend on orders from the White House? Absolutely. The case was that of Reagan administration EPA chief Anne Gorsuch Bu…

Wall Street Boobs

If Rupert Murdoch, as widely rumored, has succeeded in buying Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal, we will no doubt soon be seeing Murdoch's trademark soft porn on the news pages of the WSJ. Nowdays, if you want to find boobs in the WSJ, you need to go to the editorial pages.

A Mighty Wind

Hurricane season is underway and the National Hurricane Center is in considerable disarray. The problem is that the new director has lost the confidence of most of the senior staff.

Currently controversial questions of whether or not global warming will affect hurricane frequency or intensity are hardly central to NHC forecasters. Their key mission is predicting the behavior of tropical disturbances far enough in advance to minimimze the effect on life and property. We can't control hurricanes, but we usually can get out the their way, if we have sufficient warning.

Current methods have advanced to the point where forecasters have acquired considerable skill at predicting where a hurricane or tropical storm will go in the next 72 hours. They are somewhat less skillful at predicting storm intensity. Properly used, those 72 hours of warning can be very useful. Ships and planes can be re-routed, oil platforms can be battened down and evacuated, and people on shore can be warned…

Reality Rejection

Reality becoming entirely too tiresome, and a New HP movie coming out, I thought it might be a good time to review the bidding, so I recently watched HP and the Chamber of Secrets again.

I really like the first two movies, though critics don't seem to agree. I think that one key point might be that the first two are less crowded with plot, giving more time for all those fantastic British character actors to strut their stuff. There really isn't time for that in the latter two movies, and they suffer as a result. The creme de la creme of English acting winds up being little more than set dressing in HP four, and I fear that worse may come in five. It really was a mistake not to break four and five into a couple of movies each - though I suppose the prospect of a semi-geriatric boy wizard in the final movies wasn't a happy one either.

Since I am on the subject of reality rejection, I will be really pissed if Jo R decided to knock off our heroes in the final book. We cou…

To I or Not to I

Big Tent Democrat at Talk Left says trying to impeach is a waste of time. He rolls out the usual garbage:
...17 Republican Senators will NEVER EVER vote to remove President Bush no matter what...

1) It will NEVER happen ...

2) It is likely to have negative political ramifications for Democrats in 2008...

3) Impeachment would preclude discussion of of all other issues, most notably Iraq...

Last, and probably least, the progressive base and the Netroots would be utterly defanged and treated as completely irrelevant if it chooses to waste its time on pushing for impeachment...

But my ultimate bottom line is that the essential role the progressive base and the Netroots can and should play on ending the war in Iraq will be completely squandered. That is the part that I will find hard to forgive.


1)This depends on whether there is a "fire" underneath all the smoke from the Bushies various criminal activities. If there is, then convincing evidence cannot be unearthed as long as the Pre…

Why Scooter got to Scoot

A popular theory holds that Scooter's friends among the wealthy and powerful got him out of jail. This may have been a factor, but I think it's far more likely that he is the man who knew too much.

By springing him, Bush not only takes away Libby's motivation for talking, but sends a powerful message to all the other perjurers and justice obstructors in his administration. Stick with me and you walk - guilty or not.

Libertarian Collectivists

Andrew Sullivan has a note on the libertarian characteristics of ants.
It's not their image but new research is showing a Hayekian bent to the little buggers:

"One key to an ant colony, for example, is that no one's in charge. No generals command ant warriors. No managers boss ant workers. The queen plays no role except to lay eggs. Even with half a million ants, a colony functions just fine with no management at all—at least none that we would recognize. It relies instead upon countless interactions between individual ants, each of which is following simple rules of thumb. Scientists describe such a system as self-organizing."
The link is to a very interesting National Geographic article on Swarm Theory.

Sullivan is a libertarian, I think, which might account for his affection for this notion.

A closer look at the glue that makes this libertarian society work unveils the profoundly collectivist underpinning. The workers all share the queens DNA, and, having already sa…