Showing posts from December, 2006


Well, hey, the war in Iraq may not be going so well, but the Bush administration war on science is doing just fine. While most of our attention has been focussed on Bush's battles against climate science and stem cell research, the Bushies have quietly won one major battle against geology. Steve Benen, filling in for Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly, has the story , apparently getting his information from the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility . Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). "In


Three thousand American soldiers have now been killed in George Bush's war, in addition to 250 or so coalition troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Meanwhile, while Bush and and his crack-brained crew are distracted, a dozen or more real world problems are festering. Richard Clarke has a partial list in the Washington Post article linked above. He mentions global warming, the continued existence of al Quaeda, the growing power and pugnacity of Russia, the spread of nuclear weapons, war in Africa, and contining problems with Pakistan. He doesn't mention the increasingly unstable position of the US economy, or the serious challenges to our internatinal competiveness, but it hardly matters. Bush remains the most stubborn and foolish of stubborn fools, completely committed to his follies. A Democratically controlled Congress can do some damage control, if Republicans in Congress cooperate, but probably not a lot. Whoever wins the White House in 2008 seems certain to in

Another Stupid Gall Bladder Trick

I have posted a couple of times before on how my gall bladder keeps managing to pretend to cause me illness. When I started getting rather severe pains under my right central ribs (Friday before Christmas), my first thought was now what? I looked around for bruises - nope. Since I had only a modest fever, and really really didn't want to wind up in an emergency room two days before Christmas, I decided to tough it out if I could. Early Tuesday morning I showed up at the walk-in clinic, the doc checked me out, thought it might be a kidney stone, and sent me in for a CT scan. When the scan was read, my old gallstone (and lots of pain)were still there, so she set up an appointment with a surgeon for the following afternoon. Early the next morning I noticed a few more pains, and two or three little pimples over the main pain locations. I actually had a pretty good clue what these meant, took them to the doctor, and she agreed. Chicken pox, a generally mild disease that most childr

New Look for 2007

I thought I would adopt a new template for the new year. Nothing fancy, of course, but it looks more readable to me. Comments, questions, and complaints are welcome. Unfortunately, I seem to have lost my haloscan comments. I would appreciate any advice on how they might be restored.

Your Year in Climate Goings On

Luboš Motl has a link to Real Climate's 2006 Year in Review , which they describe as: A lighthearted look at the climate science goings-on over the last year: I found their review pretty interesting, but Lumo also decided to post his own rejoinder, a sort of amateur climate skeptic's view of the year's events. I thought I might do a bit of deconstruction on Lumo's version, since it embodies many of the fallacies of the climate skeptic community. The worst temperature news for the alarmists: 2006 is coldest in the last five years (preliminary) It's also one of the warmest of the past 150 years. There is every reason to expect year to year fluctuations in temperature. If, on the other hand, we were to see what Lumo says would convince him of the reality of the CO2 effect - a five standard deviation five year temperature increase, we would know that the predictions of the climate models are nonsense (or that some other forcing had intervened). The worst hurricane n

Low-Tech Lynching

Just because you got lynched doesn't mean you weren't guilty. That, no doubt, will be the verdict of history to Saddam Hussein. He ruled Iraq with exceptional ferocity, employing murderous tactics and ample use of torture. These circumstances serve to add a tragicomic aspect to George Bush's plans to execute Saddam soon. The farsical trial, with verdict timed to coincide with the US elections, the execution as setup for the State of the Union address, all speak of history as theatre as produced and directed by that most inept impressario, George Bush. Josh Marshall takes a closer look. After the obligatory disclaimers, Josh cuts to the chase: ...Convention dictates that we precede any discussion of this execution with the obligatory nod to Saddam's treachery, bloodthirsty rule and tyranny. But enough of the cowardly chatter. This thing is a sham, of a piece with the whole corrupt, disastrous sham that the war and occupation has been. Bush administration officials

Science Ed

As I have no doubt mentioned before, I spent some time on a citizens advisory panel for grade 6-12 science textbooks and related materials. The overwhelming impression the experience made on me was that they were all, quite uniformly, awful. It wasn't their failures with the content that bothered me, though there were many such, but the way they managed to make the subject so excruciatingly boring. Fast forward to the present: My wife has me read a bit from Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point . He told the story of the producers of a television show for preschoolers and how they made some fundamental but probably previously unnoticed discoveries about preschooler's learning. Everyone with children, or who has worked with small children, has probably had the noticed their fascination with repetition. Often they want the exact same story read to them every night, or want to see the same movie about 200 times - which fact, by the way, accounts for why I have seen the mo

Right Wing Slimeball

I notice that my title is annoyingly unspecific. Other modifiers that come to mind are equally indiscriminant: hypocrite and pompous ass fit just too many of our public figures on the right. How about coward? That's what Bill Bennett (slimeball, pompous ass, and hypocrite, former Drug Czar, and Secretary of anti-education) called Gerald Ford. Bill, like his fellow RWS hypocrites Rush L and Dick C, is himself a long-time chickenhawk - a guy who never saw a war he didn't like or one he was willing to risk his own sorry ass in. The part I don't understand is the deformity of heart and soul that allows conservatives, or so-called conservatives, to admire these SOBs and make them rich. (link courtesy of Josh Marshall )

RIP Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford has died. He was one of the better Republican Presidents, maybe in the top four*. He was Nixon's hand picked VP after the disgraced Agnew left office to face charges, and became President after Nixon resigned after impeachment and facing certain conviction. Two things kept him from re-election: his principled but highly unpopular decision to pardon Nixon, and his odd statement seemingly denying Soviet domination of the Eastern European members of the Soviet bloc during a debate. *Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, are the two outstanding Republican Presidents.

Gangster Rulz

There is always something appealing about the outlaw - the person unconstrained by law or morality. We envy that impunity with which they can act out without seeming fear of consequence. There is an element of that in the American (and not just American) Right wing's frequent flirtations with fascist dictatorship. Hitler and Musollini had their American sympathizers, among them Joseph P. Kennedy and Charles Lindberg. The Walker and Bush dynasties, working with Averell Harriman and Percy Rockefeller made big bucks banking for Hitler (see, for example, American Dynasty , by Kevin Phillips). Long after World War II, William Buckley was deploying his mannered preciosity, and the National Review's to support Spanish dictator Francisco Franco and American racism. The Chilean dictator Auguste Pinochet is a more recent entry to the rogues gallery of thugs that wingnut's love. His claim to wingnut affection is based on two actions: He overthrew a democratically elected, Marxis

The Sins of the Son

I would have thought that finding new faults in George W Bush would by now be a somewhat tiresome game of whack-a-mole. There seems to be no depth of incompetence or mendacity that he has not plumbed. Nonetheless, Bruce Reed, writing in Slate , has some interesting turns of phrase and yet another crime to lay at Bush's feet. Like Bill Murray in "Groundhog Day," George W. Bush seems doomed to wake up every morning in the same Maureen Dowd column about a father's shadow he can darken but not escape. Of course these columns are not much threat to a man who neither reads nor thinks. My guess is that the 1/3 or so of Americans who still believe in him mostly fit the same category. One less often mentioned bad deed: In perhaps the most telling rejection of Clintonism, Bush dismantled the COPS program, which had helped communities put more police on the beat and helped cut violent crime by a third nationwide. Not having enough troops turned out to be a losing strategy her

Casualties of Warm?

Among the first peoples to suffer the impacts of the current global warming are the inhabitants of low lying islands. Warming raises sea level in two ways: by melting glaciers, and probably of more current importance, by thermal expansion of the oceans. The Independent is reporting the disappearance of a whole island with a former population of 10,000 people. Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true. As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities. Eight years ago,

Christmas Wishes

Luboš Motl has some nice Christmas music (Czech, I think) up. He also has this rather bizarre attack on Scott Aaronson. To be sure, Scott had a couple of impolite things to say about Motl in the targetted piece: Of course, when your de facto spokesman is the self-parodying Luboš Motl — who often manages to excoriate feminists, climatologists, and loop quantum gravity theorists in the very same sentence — it’s hard not to seem reasonable by comparison. Unfair? Compare the following from Profesor Motl's post: Corruption has become the holy standard and some fields completely depend on it. Feminist career scholars who belong to the diversity industry financially depend on their pseudoscience about the absence of differences between the sexes much like a large fraction of the climate scientists' funding depends on spreading unsubstantiated fears and much like the loop quantum gravity research depends on spreading myths about the existence of "alternatives" to string t

Give Me That Old Time Religion (No Others Need Apply)

Slate's editor Jacob Weisberg isn't ready for a Mormon President. The problem is the theology, you see. There are millions of religious Americans who would never vote for an atheist for president, because they believe that faith is necessary to lead the country. Others, myself included, would not, under most imaginable circumstances, vote for a fanatic or fundamentalist—a Hassidic Jew who regards Rabbi Menachem Schneerson as the Messiah, a Christian literalist who thinks that the Earth is less than 7,000 years old, or a Scientologist who thinks it is haunted by the souls of space aliens sent by the evil lord Xenu. Such views are disqualifying because they're dogmatic, irrational, and absurd. By holding them, someone indicates a basic failure to think for himself or see the world as it is. By the same token, I wouldn't vote for someone who truly believed in the founding whoppers of Mormonism. The LDS church holds that Joseph Smith, directed by the angel Moroni, uneart

The Abyss

Vali Nasr at TPM Cafe has a grim look at Bush's "Surge" strategy that he calls Surging into the Abyss . The aim, he says, is to crush Sadr's Madhi Militia. There is a very real chance that such a strategy could create what we don't yet have: a Shia insurgency targetting American troops. New troops will be in Iraq not to police the streets and hold the line against the creeping violence, but to expand the war by taking on the Shia militias. This is an escalation strategy. Will it work; maybe, maybe not. But it runs the risk that it may very well provoke a Shia insurgency—something Iraq has not so far witnessed. Thus far the U.S. has faced a Sunni insurgency (which by most estimates continues to account for 80% of U.S. casualties), and sectarian violence in which Shias and Sunnis are killing each other. Shia militias are violent, destructive and radical, but Shia militias are a very different problem from the Sunni insurgency. Shia militias, unlike te insurgency,

Tagged Again

Here are the rules. Grab the book closest to you. Open to page 123, go down to the fifth sentence. Post the text of the next 3 sentences on your blog. Name the book and the author. Tag three people. OK, that was enough fun that I think I should at least tag a few others who were skeptical. This time I walked with my eyes shut to the book shelf, incidentally knocking Aunt Melba's priceless Ming vase through the screen of my new 80 inch plasma HDTV, and selected a book at random. Their relatives the bushbabies, on the other hand, are energetic leapers, and the have long feathery tails. Tree sloths are tailless, like the marsupial koalas who might be regarded as their australian equivalents, and both move slowly about the trees like lorises. In Borneo and Sumatra, the long-tailed macaque lives up tree, while the closely related pig-tailed macaque lives on the ground and has a short tail. The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins. This time I tag Levi, the visitor from Santiago Chi

Tagged: The Great Chain of Being

I was tagged by Rae Ann , who was tagged by Lubos , who was tagged by Bee , who was tagged by Clifford , who was tagged by IP ... Here are the rules. Grab the book closest to you. Open to page 123, go down to the fifth sentence. Post the text of the next 3 sentences on your blog. Name the book and the author. Tag three people. It's my opinion that this is only going to work if I tell them, and Los Alamos cannot accept the responsibility for the safety of the Oak Ridge plant unless they are fully informed as to how it works! It was great. The lieutenant takes me to the colonel and repeats my remark. Most physicists may recognize the book. Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman by Richard P. Feynman. I tag - hmmm - does anyone read this blog who hasn't already been tagged? I will try Arun, Wolfgang (even if I can't find his blog anymore - if he still has one), and whoever it is that sometimes connects from Helsinki, Finland. If you don't have a blog, you can post here

Taxing Thoughts About Climate

Brad DeLong has had a couple of posts up about the Stern report and the more general question of what we ought to do about global warming. Economists seems to believe that we ought to tax it, and I'm inclined to agree, but then comes the vexing question of the cost benefit analysis. It's at about this point that I tend to get really annoyed, mainly because any attempt at economic analysis seems at once hopelessly dependent on implausible models and largely beside the point. The implausible models start with things like: If the world grows in per capita income at about 2% per year, a marginal expenditure of roughly $70 today in cutting carbon emissions would be worth it if it were to enrich the world of 2100 by about an extra $500 of year-2006 purchasing power, once all the damages to the world economy and environment from global warming, costs of adjustment, and so on are taken into account. This looks like a very good deal to Nick Stern and his team. On the other hand, crit

Climate Stability?

William Connolley has this post asserting that climate is stable. His post, and some of the comments, got me wondering about what exactly was meant thereby. The climate has varied over a considerable range over the life of the Earth, but not, evidently, enough to kill off all life or even the advanced species. It is essentially certain that geology was a major player in some past climate matters. If we stick to the last few million years, there don't seem to be any major geologic convulsions that have left big footprints, but there are those pesky ice ages, alternating with warmer periods like the present. The ice ages seem to be correlated with the Milankovitch Cycle , the slow periodic changes in the Earth's orbital parameters that have some affect on average insolation . The correlation is hardly simple though, and not, apparently, fully understood. A system is stable if small perturbations cause small changes in the system behavior. The short term behavior of the Earth&#

Surge Insurgency

The "Surge" idea seems to be developing its own insurgency. Robin Wright and Peter Baker report in the Washington Post that the JCS really don't like it. The Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge in troops to Iraq, with White House officials aggressively promoting the concept over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intense debate. Sending 15,000 to 30,000 more troops for a mission of possibly six to eight months is one of the central proposals on the table of the White House policy review to reverse the steady deterioration in Iraq. The option is being discussed as an element in a range of bigger packages, the officials said. But the Joint Chiefs think the White House, after a month of talks, still does not have a defined mission and is latching on to the surge idea in part because of limited alternatives, despite warnings about the potential disadvantages for the military, said the offi

About Time!

Ever since I first tried Google Earth I have thought they needed to move out to the Universe. It seems that they might be getting around to it . Web surfers may soon be able to explore the canyons of Mars and experience a virtual flight over the surface of the moon thanks to a deal announced on Monday between Web search company Google Inc. and the NASA Ames Research Center. The Space Act Agreement is the first in a series of collaborations between the Mountain View, California-based Internet company and the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

The Expletive Deleted Principle

The New York Times is publicizing a long talked about idea in Iraq that they call the Darwin Principle. I have another name for it but I can't print the two word expletive, the first word of which is Dumb. Some ironist at the NYT has titled the story The Capital Awaits a Masterstroke on Iraq . So what's the idea? The Darwin Principle, Beltway version, basically says that Washington should stop trying to get Sunnis and Shiites to get along and instead just back the Shiites, since there are more of them anyway and they’re likely to win in a fight to the death. After all, the proposal goes, Iraq is 65 percent Shiite and only 20 percent Sunni. Sorry, Sunnis. The Darwin Principle is radical, decisive and most likely not going anywhere. But the fact that it has even been under discussion, no matter how briefly, says a lot about the dearth of good options facing the Bush administration and the yearning in this city for some masterstroke to restore optimism about the war. There are


With his Iraq strategy (or rather, non-strategy) in tatters, Bush has lately been talking up the idea of a Surge or a temporary increase in US troop strength. It's not quite clear whether the President saw this as a last minute "hail Mary" attempt to postpone disaster or as a purely political ploy to discomfit the Democrats. This idea, anchored in no particular strategic conception, has now suffered a lot of damage. Colin Powell, doing some overdue penance for his part in enabling this war has dealt it a blow that ought to be fatal. The summer's surge of U.S. troops to try to stabilize Baghdad failed, he said, and any new attempt is unlikely to succeed. "If somebody proposes that additional troops be sent, if I was still chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, my first question . . . is what mission is it these troops are supposed to accomplish? . . . Is it something that is really accomplishable? . . . Do we have enough troops to accomplish it?" The oth

Econoworld and the Future

That most excellent blogger and polymath, Brad DeLong, commends for our reading what he calls Partha Dasgupta's excellent review of Jared Diamond's collapse. I'm afraid that I can't agree. I disliked the review a lot. Firstly, his main quarrel with Diamond is that Diamond wrote a different book than Dasgupta would like. More about that later. More fundamentally, the review seems quite dishonest in the way it interprets what Diamond did say. Consider his only quote from Diamond: At one point he claims that ‘all of our current problems are unintended negative consequences of our existing technology,’ to which I felt like shouting in exasperation that perhaps at some times, in some places, a few of the unintended consequences of our existing technology have been beneficial. Reading Diamond you would think our ancestors should all have remained hunter-gatherers in Africa, co-evolving with the native flora and fauna, and roaming the wilds in search of wild berries and

My Acceptance Speech

I would like to congratulate and thank the editors of Time for naming me as their Man of the Year. Flattered as I am, I'm still a bit startled that the editors were daring enough to make a choice that so exceeded even the banality, irrelevance, and lamentable lameness of their stupidest previous choice . This pick, I predict, will set a standard that even the redoubtable editors will have trouble matching in the future - if there is a future for Time magazine. Check that. Maybe they could just save a lot of inane meeting time by making me the choice for every year: past, present, and future.

Worth Its (Iodized) Salt

For many of the world's people, a small deficiency in iodine makes a big difference in IQ. Using iodized salt is standard in advanced countries, but in many places is looked upon with suspicion. Iodizing salt is one of the simplest, cheapest (a bit over $1 per ton) and most effective public health measures available. This New York Times story by Doug G. McNeil, jr. has the details: Valentina Sivryukova knew her public service messages were hitting the mark when she heard how one Kazakh schoolboy called another stupid. “What are you,” he sneered, “iodine-deficient or something?” Some more excerpts: Worldwide, about two billion people — a third of the globe — get too little iodine, including hundreds of millions in India and China. Studies show that iodine deficiency is the leading preventable cause of mental retardation. Even moderate deficiency, especially in pregnant women and infants, lowers intelligence by 10 to 15 I.Q. points, shaving incalculable potential off a nation’s

Educating America

The NYT and others are noting a new report on education reform. The study, by the National Commission on Education and the Economy, identifies some real deficiencies in our educational performance, and the threat that poses to our standard of living in the future. Other nations, with lower labor costs, are doing a better job of turning out well-trained students who are likely to take the best jobs away from many Americans. They have a dozen or so proposals, ten of which are numbered, and some of which are probably even good ideas. Unfortunately, the overall product doesn't look very promising. They have only put their executive summary on the web (they want you to buy the report), but to me it looks like a mishmash of pius hopes and wishful thinking, larded with untested (and in my opinion, mostly stupid) right-wing social engineering: abolish teacher pensions, shuffle most kids out of school after tenth grade, privatize schools, create some funky kinds of private re-educat


If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, You probably just don't understand the gravity of the situation Iran's President Ahmadinejad held a little party for Holocaust deniers recently. the usual Nazis and eccentrics showed up, along with a few Orthodox Jews who don't deny the Holocaust but don't approve of Israel. Which left me wondering about deniers in general. I don't for a minute believe that Ahmadinejad really doesn't believe the Holocaust happened. He is motivated by a different logic. He figures that Jews in general, and Israel in particular, have gotten way too much mileage out of the fact that Hitler singled them out as his special victims. He also wants to build credibility with the Israel hating Palestinian and Arab masses. Somewhat similar logic may apply to the David Dukes of the world. Nonetheless, there are many real Holocaust deniers with no obvious political programs who really seem to believe their particular nut-b

Now How *Did* That Ever Happen?

Josh Marshall : President Bush, just now at the Pentagon (emphasis added): "I thank these men who wear our uniform for a very candid and fruitful discussion about how to secure this country and how to win a war that we now find ourselves in ."

Why Not Hillary?

Because four Republican Presidents in a row has been enough (too d*** many). Yes, I've heard that technically, Hillary is a Democrat. Ditto Bill. In terms of economics, though, both have practiced just a slightly less agressive version of the "Welfare for the Wealthy" policies of Reagan and Bush I. Time for a Democrat from the Democratic Wing of the Democratic party.

Scary Movie

It seems that our good friend Lubosh Motl is the protagonist of Martin Scorcese's new "stringsta" movie String King's . Boasting a big budget and a star studded cast, this important new movie has almost all the ingredients for Oscar contention, except for being, quite unfortunately, apparently imaginary. Sean Carroll has "Steve's" review over a Cosmic Variance . Excerpts below: The “String Kings”, Scorsese’s latest, is a highly violent but satisfying gangster movie, certainly on a par with Goodfellas or the Godfather trilogy, and does give the viewer insights into the raw and violent world of fundamental string theory research. The film also boasts a first-rate Hollywood cast: Joe Pesci as Michael “Mo “Green; Burt Young as John Schwarz; Antonio Banderas as the hot-bloodied Juan Maldacena, who is as fast with a flicknife as he is with an ADS duality; Leonardo deCaprio as Lubos “The Kid” Motl; Robert de Niro as Tom Banks; Harvey Keitel as Joe “the (quan

Assassination, FSB Style

Some person or persons unknown, sometimes referred to as Pootie-Poot (reputedly the Russian equivalent of John Doe), sent one or two FSB assassins from Moscow to London. Along the way, one stopped in Germany, leaving a trail of Polonium 210 along the way. In London, the assassin somehow slipped some Polonium 210 into Litvinenko's food, probably managing to inhale a fatal or near fatal dose himself at the same time. Now he is back in Moscow, in the hospital, and incommunicado. So goes the current popular theory. It would be hard to make this stuff up.

To the Moon, Alice

OK, now I'm worried. Gregg Easterbrook is writing on science , a scary enough prospect in itself, and I'm agreeing with him! He doesn't like NASA's plan, or should we call it a "vision," of creating a permanent Moon base. This plan is inspired, no doubt, by the fabulous success of it's space shuttle and manned space station , the funding of which sucked up the money planned for the Superconducting Super Collider and about ten times as much more as well. About the next stupidity: The United States will have a permanent base on the moon by the year 2024, NASA officials said on Monday. What does the space agency hope to discover on the moon? The reason it built the base. Coming under a presidency whose slogan might be "No Price Too High To Accomplish Nothing," the idea of a permanent, crewed moon base nevertheless takes the cake for preposterousness. Although, of course, the base could yield a great discovery, its scientific value is likely to b

Juan Cole

Juan Cole is always invaluable reading on Iraq. Today he notes that Sarah Shields argument that Iraq is not so much having a civil war as suffering the consequences of the US having destroyed the elements of a functioning state does not rule out that Iraq is still having a civil war. About those weapons with which we equip the Iraqi Army: A lot of them get sold to the insurgents and militias. This is no surprise. The same thing happened in Vietnam and was widely predicted by those with long memories. Otherwise, Bush appears to remain a space cadet. Can we survive two more years?

The Times They are a Wasting....


My Appearance on Meet The Press

After inteviews with Baker and Hamilton of the ISG, little Russ had Tom Ricks of the NYT and three idiots with PhDs on to talk about Iraq. Tom didn't say much. Richard Haase of the Council on Foreign Relations was mainly concerned that we blame the debacle on the Iraqis. The two main talkers were Eliot Cohen, who had attacked the ISG report in the Wall Street Journal, and Ken "Iraq will be a Cakewalk" Adelman. I formed an immediate dislike for Cohen based on my irrational hatred of bow ties. Come to think of it, Bill Kristol and George Will wear or wore bow ties. Let me revise and extend. I formed an immediate dislike for Cohen based on my well-founded hatred of bow ties. I also seem to recall that he was one of the promoters of this idiotic enterprise. Nobody had any good ideas, but Cohen managed to mollify me a bit by pointing out the criminality of the fact that our soldiers are still riding and dying in those stupid up-armored Humvees when far more suitable ve

Presidential Preferences

I have been looking over the likely suspects for 2008, and my reaction is mostly yetch. The rundown. John McCain : Straight talking war hero McCain turned out to be politically inconvenient. He has spent the last year cozying up to and hiring every scumbag in the Republican Party. He is pro-victory in Iraq, whatever the hell that means, but not in any realistic way. He just wants to keep sending American soldiers into the meat grinder to kick this can down the road. PROSPECTS: +4 RATING: -4 Rudy Giuliani : Serial adulterer with many wives, too liberal for the Republican Party, too crooked for the country, and a real jerk. I can hope that he has no chance in the primaries. PROSPECTS: +1 RATING: -3 Sam Brownback : Seems to be an honest man. Way too conservative for me. PROSPECTS: +2 RATING: +0 Mitt Romney : I don't know much bad about him. Too liberal and too Mormon for the evangelicals. He's from Massachusetts for cripes sake. PROSPECTS: -1 RATING: +1. New

Predictions 06: Preliminary Look & More

It's still a bit early to evaluate my Predictions for 2006 , but a preliminary review suggests that my best prediction was the one about my limitations as a prophet. I would now like to add a few more, just to improve my percentage: 1) Time magazine will make some really lame pick for "Man of the Year," but the record inanity insanity achieved by their Rudy Giuliani pick will not be broken. My shallow but obvious pick: The Angry American Voter . 2) President Bush will make a series of decisive moves to turn around the situation in Iraq, and forcefully articulate a comprehensive and comprehensible policy in the Middle East. 3) Circumstances will continue to be more like they are now than they have been in the past, but will be less like they are now than they are likely to be in the future. 4) I will continue to buy more mathematics books than I can understand. OK, number two was a joke. But sometimes fantasy is a necessary ingredient for sanity.


There are two big problems in Iraq: no security and no economy. We don't have the troops to supply security in the short run and Iraqi troops won't do the job. That's why people join and support militias. We should sponsor strictly local defensive militias. Let locals lead them but we would pay them. If they leave their area of attack other groups (or us) we stop their pay and smash them. Every Iraqi who wants to work should have a local job, in his own neighborhood, protected by his neighbors in his neighborhood militia. Making Iraq a giant welfare state, or rather putting all the Iraqis on our payroll, might be the only way to save it. The direction and purpose of the work should be purely local and purely for Iraq - fixing streets and sewers, etc. That might help take the sting our of getting paid by the Americans. Yet another idea that could have worked once. Could it still?

Victory Strategy

Now that the Iraq Study Committee has announced a strategy that has only a minute chance of success (in contrast to the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld strategy that has zero chance of success), the usual suspects are all over the tube wondering why a power that was able to play a key role in defeating Japan and Germany can't win against a two-bit insurgency. The answer is that we can win, not at all easily, if we are willing to make a World War II type committment. That means putting the country on a war footing. Expand the military by 500,000 to 1,000,000. This would require a draft, or, preferably, large pay increases - say a 50% increase with double pay for combat tours. Double the taxes on high incomes (the rate was 91% in WW II). Equip and train an army for counterinsurgency, including replacing all the up-armored Humvees with armored V-bottorm vehicles. Make sure every soldier deployed to Iraq has at least eight weeks of counterinsurgency and language skills training. Tell the I

"Grave and Deteriorating"

The Iraq study group finds that the situation in Iraq is "grave and deteriorating." This is not good news, and not a surprise, but still a welcome bit of reality after years of lies and nonsense. The report is a surprising quick read and filled with interesting facts. Crucially, it notes that Bush's plan, if it could be called that, was flawed and not working. The recommendations of the ISG owe more to hope than certainty, and the obstacles to anything that might be called success look horrendous, but at least there is now some recognition of reality. In another front on the war on fantasy, Steven Colbert had a nice explanation of how the Senate so rapidly confirmed Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. They had only one question, he said: are you, or have you ever been, Donald Rumsfeld? The answer, plus a photo ID, was sufficient.

Gates: Not Winning

From the New York Times article by David S. Cloud and Mark Mazetti. Robert M. Gates, President Bush’s nominee to be defense secretary, won unanimous approval today from a Senate panel after testifying that the United States was not winning in Iraq and that American failure there could ignite “a regional conflagration” in the Middle East. Not winning in Iraq. Not that that is news to anyone with a functioning brain stem, but still such a shock to hear someone uttering the obvious truth. It actually seemed to lift a little weight from my shoulders to see this one tiny pinprick of truth in Bush's vast cloud of lie and fantasy. No doubt the Senate panel felt the same.

RC Busted!

OK, so the headline is mainly a joke. Gavin Schmidt at Real Climate has reported that The Sky is Falling , or in rather less alarmist terms, that the stratosphere is cooling. Models predict it and measurements confirm it. Inquiring minds, in the comments section, wanted a simple explanation for why. I've had a crack at this before, and Eli Rabett took me to task for my explanation. Instead, he offered this version from Professor Uherik, which he, Gavin, and most of the RC crowd seem to like. I don't buy it. The picture, Uherik's figure 3, depicts the atmospheric cooling versus height and wavenumber. The dotted line is the tropopause. The light blue color represents regions of the height-wavenumber space where no net radiative cooling or heating is taking place. The colors to the right show how much or how little radiative cooling takes place, with green representing a lot and gray meaning that net radiative heating is taking place. At 250 cm^(-1) for example, the region n

Lowminded Fun: Bowdlerized Edition

Setup: Fan's are reminded of celebrity's marketing campaign for a clothing line. A link is provided. Transition: Fan's are advised to get theirs since ... Punchline: Celebrity appears to have made the clothing choice of Archie, pg. 84 of the paperback edition of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and hence no longer wears the marketed items. Link to story and evidence is provided. I thought the original might have been slightly funnier.

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter was on Meet the Press today flogging his new book: Peace not Apartheid . At least I think that was the title. He argues that the core of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is the desire of a few Israeli's for Palestinian land - and that the US and Israeli government are treating the Palestinians badly. He also says that while these issues are debated passionately in Israel, they are almost invisible in the US. Since the Lebanese war, it's almost impossible for me to feel any optimism about the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. I suspect that Jimmy Carter will get a lot of heat for his ideas, but he is one of the few who ever did accomplish anything in the Middle East, so maybe he's worth a listen. The alternative seems likely to be endless war, or war until one side or the other is exterminated.


Contrary to what you may have read here and elsewhere, it seems that Polonium 210 is not exactly hard to get, at least according to William J Broad in this article in today's New York Times. This complicates the story, to say the least: The complicating factor is the relative ubiquity of polonium 210, the highly radioactive substance found in Mr. Litvinenko’s body and now in high levels in the body of an Italian associate, who has been hospitalized in London. Experts initially called it quite rare, with some claiming that only the Kremlin had the wherewithal to administer a lethal dose. But public and private inquiries have shown that it proliferated quite widely during the nuclear era, of late as an industrial commodity. “You can get it all over the place,” said William Happer, a physicist at Princeton who has advised the United States government on nuclear forensics. “And it’s a terrible way to go.” Today, polonium 210 can show up in everything from atom bombs, to antistatic br


I produce rather more articles than I actually post. Sometimes I say to myself that this post is too lame, too offensive, or otherwise worthless. No doubt I don't hold back often enough. I've decided to save my scathing attack on Blair's cabinet for another day. Maybe they will wind up doing the right thing in the Litvinenko affair, but early signs are not encouraging: Amid signs that his death could cause a diplomatic row, Tony Blair concluded the cabinet meeting by saying “the most important issue” was likely to be Britain’s long-term relationship with Moscow. Another minister present said: “It caused some alarm that this case is obviously causing tension with the Russians. They are too important for us to fall out with them over this.”

Snowflakes Keep Falling on My Head

Rummy picks up a clue , as shown by this late memo published in the NYT. Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working ... Some of his ideas might have made sense, if tried two or three years ago. Some excerpts: ¶Initiate a reverse embeds program, like the Korean Katusas, by putting one or more Iraqi soldiers with every U.S. and possibly Coalition squad, to improve our units’ language capabilities and cultural awareness and to give the Iraqis experience and training with professional U.S. troops. ¶Retain high-end SOF capability and necessary support structure to target Al Qaeda, death squads, and Iranians in Iraq, while drawing down all other Coalition forces, except those necessary to provide certain key enablers for the ISF. ¶Initiate an approach where U.S. forces provide security only for those provinces or cities that openly request U.S. help and that actively cooperate, with the stipulation being that unless they cooperate fully, U.S. forces would leave the