Showing posts from May, 2007

"He's So Fine"

Glen Greenwald has a long amusing column on Howard Fineman, Mark Halperin, and Chris Matthews swooning and generally whipping themselves into an erotic lather over Fred Thompson. Thompson is the draft dodging, skirt chaising former Senator, lobbyist, and soon to be Republican Presidential candidate who until recently starred on some lawyer show. Now a life of politics, political lobbying, and acting doesn't exactly scream "tough guy" to me, but Ms. Fineman and her sisters obviously feel differently. "He's got to be tough! He played a tough guy on TV."

A Tale of Two NASAs

It was the best of Agencies, It was the worst of Agencies... There have always been two NASAs. Science NASA builds exquisite scientific instruments go to the farthest reaches of the Solar system and last ten times their design lifetimes, like the Pioneer space craft or the Mars rovers. The other NASA, which we might call bizarro NASA, or better, head-up-its-NASA, builds useless crap at immense cost, like the shuttle or the International Space Station. Both NASAs were probably gratified when Bush replaced some bean counter with current NASA head Michael Griffin. He was a NASA veteran and a PhD (Aeronautical Engineering). Today, I would guess, science NASA is bitterly disappointed. While driving to work this morning, I heard NPR's Steve Inskeep interview Griffin. It certainly didn't help my digestion. Kevin Vranes of Prometheus has a transcript. STEVE INSKEEP: One thing that’s been mentioned that NASA is perhaps not spending as much money as it could on is studying climate

The Empire of Lies

Kevin Drum has a story on the tobacco lobby's attempts to claim that millions have died due to banning DDT. Why, you might ask? Because they were trying to discredit the World Health Organization just as it was mounting a big anti-tobacco campaign. Their basic premise is a lie, naturally: Is DDT a banned substance? Answer: for widespread agricultural use, which produces increased resistance in many insect populations, yes. For vector control (primarily to contain mosquito-borne malaria), no. For the last decade or so, however, a group of right-wing "sound science" advocates has been implying that the agricultural ban on DDT is really a blanket ban and that millions of poor Africans have died as a result. Why? DDT isn't patented and is only minimally profitable, so it's not as if the DDT industry is bothering to push this. So who is? Short answer: the tobacco industry. Surprise! Turns out that the DDT disinformation campaign was really an effort to discredit th

Not a Good Time For Freedom

Bush is not responsible for all the reverses freedom has seen in the last six years, but he has been a big factor. With the US now almost universally disliked as a symbol of repression, with most of our moral credibility down the toilet, it has been easy for Putin to install a quasi-fascist regime in Russia. Repression in the Muslim world has been greatly strengthened. Venezuela is now firmly on the path to repressive totalitarianism, and Bush's incompetent promotion of a coup against elected President Chavez did its part in setting the scene for subsequent outrages against freedom. It sickens me to see how much damage this foolish man and his criminal coterie have done to the country and the world. I just hope that a few more of them go to jail.

Nostrums and Remedies Against GW Deniers

Via Brad DeLong , Gristmill provides a long list answers to the usual denialist arguments. A sample: Stages of Denial , Scientific Topics , Types of Argument , and Levels of Sophistication . Individual articles will appear under multiple headings and may even appear in multiple subcategories in the same heading. Stages of Denial There's nothing happening Inadequate evidence There is no evidence One record year is not global warming The temperature record is simply unreliable One hundred years is not enough Glaciers have always grown and receded Warming is due to the Urban Heat Island effect Mauna Loa is a volcano The scientists aren't even sure Contradictory evidence It's cold today in Wagga Wagga Antarctic ice is growing The satellites show cooling What about mid-century cooling? Global warming stopped in 1998 But the glaciers are not melting An

Now For Some Good News

According to this HuffPost story , Wolfowitz blamed the media for his forced resignation. Departing World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz in a radio interview broadcast Monday blamed an overheated atmosphere at the bank and in the media for forcing him to resign. ... Wolfowitz's departure ends a two-year run at the development bank that was marked by controversy from the start, given his previous role as a major architect of the Iraq war when he served as the No. 2 official at the Pentagon. Naturally he accepts no blame for his corrupt practices and general incompetence. But hey, I blamed the media for a lot so maybe I should give them credit here. Thanks media. You still owe us plenty.

Worth a Look?

Michael Moore has rarely been accused of being an even-handed critic, and the odds are that his new movie Sicko won't break new ground in that respect. I haven't seen it yet, but I think I will take a look when it comes. The New York Times has a critical look at a couple of its claims: Mr. Moore transports a handful of sick Americans to Cuba for treatment in the course of the film, which is scheduled to open in the United States next month, and he is apparently dumbfounded that they could get there what they couldn’t get here. “There’s a reason Cubans live on average longer than we do,” he told Time magazine. “I’m not trumpeting Castro or his regime. I just want to say to fellow Americans, ‘C’mon, we’re the United States. If they can do this, we can do it.’ ” But hold on. Do they do it? Live longer than, or even as long as, we do? How could a poor developing country — where annual health care spending averages just $230 a person compared with $6,096 in the United States — co

Matt Drudge

Matt Drudge was the first of the big time internet news aggregators, and is still probably the biggest. His mixture of news, sleaze, right-wing nutbaggery, and oddements from all over has made him a major player in the right-wing media and a frequent recipient of Republican rumors and slanders. His site has become too tedious to retain much amusement value for me, and there are plenty of other news aggregators around, but I still read him to find out what the RW slime machine is up to. This morning features stories of (gasp!) cold weather in Britain, Canada, and North Dakota. To an old Montanan who remembers snow in May, June, and even July, this is about as shocking tits on a man, but I suppose these stories feed some sort of need for Exxon Mobile and its denialist army.

Say What?

HuffPost has a story from The Independent on a Tony Blair biographer rushing to beat Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to the bookshelves. Thanks to Tony, and his decision to stand down on 27 June, Alastair [Campbell, former Blair spinmeister] is able to get in ahead of Harry Potter, by 12 days. The Blair Years (784 pages, £25, no Amazon discount if you pre-order now) by Alastair Campbell is published on 9 July; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (608 pages, £18 discounted to £9 for pre-orders) by J.K. Rowling follows on 21 July. Because, I suppose, they expect to be competing for the same readership. I'm afraid I can't see myself slogging through 784 pages of Blair, especially at $50 a pop.

Crazy Dick Targets Iran - and Us

It's no secret that the usual neocons are still trying to gin up a war with Iran. Newt Gingrich and his fellow idiots can be found spouting off on the subject nearly every Sunday. Steve Clemons tells a scary story about Vice President Cheney trying to do an end run around the President to start a war: Multiple sources have reported that a senior aide on Vice President Cheney's national security team has been meeting with policy hands of the American Enterprise Institute, one other think tank, and more than one national security consulting house and explicitly stating that Vice President Cheney does not support President Bush's tack towards Condoleezza Rice's diplomatic efforts and fears that the President is taking diplomacy with Iran too seriously. This White House official has stated to several Washington insiders that Cheney is planning to deploy an "end run strategy" around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument. The thinking on Che

Fox Liver Oil

In my youth, long ago, before vitamin pills had been perfected, we took cod liver oil in the winter to prevent something or other. It was vile stuff, but, so we were told, good for us. In a modern recreation of this, I occasionally force myself to watch a bit of Fox News. Tonight's punishment was some sort of crap from the Wall Street Journal editorial board, some of the most unreconstructed dolts in the universe. One featured piece tonight was an attack on Rachel Carson, a whole string of lies remarkable for it's complete orthogonality to the truth. I sputtered: "How can he say that utter nonsense?" A fellow viewer had this non-PC comment: "Easy. He's a [racial category deleted] Republican. His entire life is a lie." OK, but what would his race have to do with it?


In anti-war blog parlance, an FU, or Friedman Unit, is six months, so-called because New York Times columnist and Iraq war cheerleader Tom Friedman was in the habit of predicting a dramatic turnaround in the war in another six months, or one FU. It seems the FU has another use as well. Matt Sludge, and the NYT were earlier flogging a story about Bush planning to pull a bunch of troops out in an FU or so. This was a deliberate leak by the WH of course, not that they would ever do anything to hint at our weakness to the enemy. Glen Greenwald, who has a longer memory than your typical MSM editor (~1 FU vs. 0.001 FU for a TV talking head), has remembered a bit of the past: The Hill, May 3, 2006: The withdrawal of 20,000-40,000 U.S. troops from Iraq this fall would greatly help Republican chances ... Newsday, December 18, 2005: Trying to buy time with a public impatient over Iraq, President George W. Bush has repeatedly railed against the dangers of setting an "artificial timetable&

The Origin of Species

Darwin was not the first to notice that biological systems show exquisite adaptation to their circumstances, in contrast to the random and chaotic nature of the inanimate world. Moreover, they appear to be designed with an exquisite precision that the best craftsmen then or now cannot emulate. Man, the designer and builder, made the natural assumption that a more subtle mind and hand was behind what Richard Dawkins has called “the almost perfect illusion of design” in the biological world. Living systems presented another conundrum as well. There are strong analogies between different life forms, and those analogies form an organized hierarchy. It proved possible to organize living things in rather strictly hierarchical categories – dogs, wolves, coyotes and foxes were all clearly more like each other than any of them were like cats, say. Dogs, cats, and even bats and whales were more like each other than any of them was like a fish or a bird. Intelligent design offered little in

Militant Religion

I am no fan of militant religion of any stripe, but for reasons probably peculiar to my own history and psychology, I find the militant atheists to sometimes be particularly irritating. I certainly don't object to anybody holding such beliefs and I even accept that they have a good case, but I find the more strident types insufferably smug and conceited. Cosmic Variance , which is often a good site, if not nearly as good as Sean's old blog, suffers periodic outbreaks of militancy. In the latest, Jo Anne posts about a tenure dispute involving an astronomer in Intelligent Designer clothing. I thought both the post and many of the comments were rather obtuse in their discussion of the issues. I commented: Jo Anne & Rob, I have you mistaken in law, history and logic. If Intelligent Design is religion and not science(as is usually argued), and the tenure committee used his expressed belief in it’s decision, they violated the law and the Constitution - no religious test - have y

Cellular Radiation Threat

It seems that there is a company putting out underwear designed to protect you from harmful cell phone radiation. I haven't actually read the article about the briefs, which incorporate silver threads for a Faraday cage effect, so the details are a bit unclear, but I would assume that you wear them on your head.

Like I Wanted to Hear This News

Men's Minds Decline More with Age

Doing the Math

Fred Kaplan, who is usually not a total idiot, attributes Paul Wolfowitz's disastrous careers at the Defense Department and the World Bank to his undergraduate math major. Two years ago, when Paul Wolfowitz was named World Bank president, I wrote that he was "not so bad a choice" for the job. Now it seems he was a terrible pick, and for reasons that should have been plain. My (unenthusiastic) endorsement stemmed from an impression that, of all the neocons, Wolfowitz seemed to be the most genuinely idealistic—that, despite his disastrous misjudgments on Iraq, he was the sort of "optimistic globalist" who believed in the bank's basic tenet: that the developed world can improve the underdeveloped world with the aid of rational principles. What's clear in retrospect is that judgment and character trump dedication and belief—and, in this regard, Wolfowitz's doom was all but fated. Several factors shaped this fate, but not least was the fact that his majo

Go-Ghost in the Machine

The first problems tackled by artificial intelligence researchers tended to be those that humans find hard - proving mathematical theorems, for example. Early successes convince many that AI would not be a tough nut to crack. Claude Shannon wrote about computer chess in 1950, and many thought it would only be a short time before computers surpassed humans at it, but in fact it was almost another half-century (1996) before IBM's multi-million dollar Deep Thought beat Gary Kasparov. Computers and programs that can beat top grandmasters are now quite cheap. One of the last refuges of human intellectual superiority in a purely formal setting is the game of go . John Henry still can beat the steam hammer in that game, but the first cracks in our dominance are appearing. June's Scientific American reports on a new strategy that I think may have implications beyond purely formal tasks. It's based on so-called Monte Carlo techniques with some new refinements. Monte Carlo meth

The Evil Men Do...

No one should confuse me with a fan of Jerry Fallwell, but I couldn't really approve of Christopher Hitchens' tirade against him on Anderson Cooper's show. Nonetheless, it did provoke Fox News into inviting him onto Hannity and Colmes , together with that moral paragon and former partner in Jack Abramoff's indian casino scams, Ralph Reed. The main business of the segment was to berate Hitchens for his "insensitivity" and generally rude treatment of the departed. In choosing to engage Hitchens in a battle of wits, though, the gang of three had brought spoons to a knife fight, and Hitch quickly dismembered the still twitching bodies of their arguments. You can find the evidence here on youtube . A highlight for me is where, with time running out, Hitchens tells Hannity that the time needed for an answer had been taken by Hannity's long, moronic question. He did a good job of slapping around Hannity's co-buffoons as well.

Blink: A Semi-Contrite Review

blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking , by Malcolm Gladwell is a book about first impressions. As Gladwell puts it: It's a book about rapid cognition, about the kind of thinking that happens in a blink of an eye. When you meet someone for the first time, or walk into a house you are thinking of buying, or read the first few sentences of a book, your mind takes about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions. Well, "Blink" is a book about those two seconds, because I think those instant conclusions that we reach are really powerful and really important and, occasionally, really good. I read the first chapter and really hated it. The result was the preview called Blankety Blink! . Since I have now read the whole book, and have a different opinion, I think I ought to post it. What I hated about that first chapter was that I thought that Gladwell was misinterpreting his data, and emphasizing the wrong points. I still think that that judgement wasn't crazy

Curses! Foiled Again!

Blankety-blank San Antonio Spurs are just too good. And Bowen gets away with a million fouls.

The Search for Lost Time

Plugged the new tube into the cable, and it seems the service now comes with some digital music. While trying to find something to watch, we happened upon "Brush up your Shakespeare" from Kiss Me Kate . For some reason that triggered this old memory trace: Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And Summer's lease hath all too short a date: Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, And oft' is his gold complexion dimm'd; And every fair from fair sometime declines, By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd: But thy eternal Summer shall not fade Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest; Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade, When in eternal lines to time thou growest: So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. ...................Big Bill's 18th Sonnet. As a high school junior I attended a Sum

Comparative Advantage

Outsourcing: Pushing the Boundaries A local publisher in Pasadena, CA pushed the boundaries on outsourcing recently. According to NPR: Morning Edition, May 11, 2007 · A Web site in Pasadena, Calif., takes outsourcing to a new level. It advertised for a journalist to report on Pasadena's city government and politics, but will base the "local" reporter in India. The publisher says it makes sense, since City Council meetings are available on the Web. The India-based correspondent will be able to e-mail anybody he wants for an interview. Innovative yes. But is it really a breakthrough that really exploits Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage? I think I might reserve that kind of praise for the new venture called No Worries, Mate (NWM) . This venture, founded by an Australian expatriate and Caltech dropout, outsources a hitherto sacrosanct local function. China, you may recall, became somewhat notorious for its one-child policy. This left many poor Chinese women with


Congress is now more unpopular than the President. This is bizarre but perhaps inevitable. People are impatient that Congress hasn't been able to do anything about the war, and uninterested in the investigation of Bush's crimes. It's a pity our citizens are so ignorant and unintelligent. It's also a shame that most of them don't care about our rights or our constitution. Of course I'm pretty annoyed myself.

Feeling Peak-ed?

Stuart Staniford at the Oil Drum takes a close look and see the world's largest oil field in decline. ...Saudi oil production has been falling with increasing speeed since summer 2005, and overall, since mid 2004, about 2 million barrels of oil per day in production has gone missing (about 1mbpd in reduction in total production, and about another 1mbpd in that two major new projects, Qatif and Haradh III, failed to increase overall production). That's 2.5% of world production and, if that production hadn't gone missing, gasoline in the US likely would still be somewhere in the vicinity of $2/gallon instead of well over $3. I will analyze six or seven separate lines of technical evidence, and argue they all point to a consistent picture, which says that the answer to both questions is "Yes". Yes, the northern half of Ghawar is quite depleted. And yes, this probably explains at least part of recent production declines. Furthermore, it is likely that more declines

Geometry and Physics

Luboš Motl has a long, interesting post on what he calls the myths of quantum gravity. I have a slight quibble with one point. Myth: But a geometric approach is better, isn't it? In physics, the primary way of dividing theories is into correct theories and wrong theories. A general attempt to divide ideas and tools into geometric ones and non-geometric ones is typically ill-defined - it depends on the definition of "geometry" which is a matter of historical and social coincidences in mathematics rather than a matter of well-defined differences. Our understanding what geometry is has been evolving for centuries. More importantly, the approach that is labeled "more geometric", whether or not the reasons behind this terminology are rational or not, doesn't have to be "more correct". Physics of string theory can be defined to be the right "generalized geometry". At this level, it is just an empty word. The basic dynamics of general relativi

LHC: Last Best Hope for Particle Physics?

Dennis Overbye has this long article on the LHC and physicists hopes for it at the NYT.

Juan Cole Diagnoses Wolfowitz

Paul Wolfowitz looks almost harmless, like somebody's slightly abused but kindly uncle. He's also one of the most disastrous figures in American political history, and a hot candidate for a war crimes trial. Oddly enough, he is often described as smart, or even brilliant (by Republicans), but his failures of judgement have been monumental. Juan Cole looks for a common thread between Wolfowitz's bungled term at the World Bank and his authorship of the Iraq War, and finds a few: cronyism, corruption and a cocksure arrogance that ignored the voices of those who really knew. These aren't isolated faults. Corruption feeds the cronies, and the cronyism feeds the corruption, while the narrow echo chamber of cronies reinforces bad judgements and disguises follies. ...Wolfowitz has throughout his entire career demonstrated a penchant for cronyism and for smearing and marginalizing perceived rivals as tactics for getting his way. He has been arrogant and highhanded in dismis

The Ghost in the Machine

Captain Futuro Predicts A lot of debates about artificial intelligence come down to "what about consciousness? We don't understand consciousness." I will stipulate to that. Consciousness is the last refuge of the doubters - the last hiding place for some kind of magical hocus-pocus - unless you count quantum gravity, or like Roger Penrose, conflate them. Well maybe, but I doubt it. The fundamental building block of consciousness is self-awareness. Our consciousness is our awareness of self, and our awareness of other's consciousness. Old style machines had no self-awareness. A truck was just a truck, not knowing or caring about other trucks or even itself. It's pretty clear that other animals, even rather primitive ones, have some level of self-awareness. It's an essential tool for competitive success in the struggle for existence. Our trucks and other machines are developing some self-awareness too. They have computers which keep track of when they a

How to do Candidate Debates

The sorry state of candidate debates, where a small herd of candidates take the stage with each getting a few minutes to respond to gotcha questions from some idiot like Chris Matthews, is a great scandal. My suggestion for a replacement: a small number of online debates, with each devoted to a single topic, in writing. Each candidate would get to make an opening statement of 500 or so words, would have to answer a short list of questions from the public but vetted by experts, and would get to ask a few questions of his fellow candidates. I would suggest a couple of days between each phase of the debate to provide time for questions and responses. My suggested topics: Medical care: how should we change our medical care system? Government corruption: what can we do to prevent future scandals like those occuring under Bush? The economy, national competitiveness, and growing inequality: what do we do now? The terrorist threat: What should we do about it? The environment: what shou

Glenn Greenwald is the Man

Following a tip from molnar , I started reading some Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald is indeed the terror of MSM pomposity and the hammer of the righteous. Tremble before him Broder, Alter, Klein, and Russert. Prepare to learn the taste of crow and humble pie. Recommended to all who seek the path of truth.

Dem Optimism

Democrats these days tend to be pretty optimistic about the 2008 Presidential election. We have several credible candidates, while the Republicans mostly seem to be fielding the can't that can't shoot straight. Straight talker McCain can't seem to avoid total nonsense on the war. Giuliani is a no-class bottom dweller. Romney changes his mind a lot. Most of the rest are flat-earthers of one stripe or another. I would like to remind Dems giddy about all this that they are living in a country which twice elected George Bush. The right wing noise machine is intact. It seems certain that it will be a challenge to convince the country of things right before their noses.

Yesterday's Future

Captain Futuro Predicts Yesterday's future was the jet car and the computer, says Charlie Stross. Before 1800, human beings didn't travel faster than a horse could gallop. By 1970 people often went about Mach .80, the speed of a 707, or 747, or 787, and we've been stuck there ever since. Charlie thinks a similar stagnation faces the computer. Moore's law hasn't quite run its course, and some future increments in computer speed and processing are still in store, but: The cultural picture in computing today therefore looks much as it did in transportation technology in the 1930s — everything tomorrow is going to be wildly faster than it is today, let alone yesterday. And this progress has been running for long enough that it's seeped into the public consciousness. In the 1920s, boys often wanted to grow up to be steam locomotive engineers; politicians and publicists in the 1930s talked about "air-mindedness" as the key to future prosperity. In the 1990s

Altered States: Fear and Loathing in the MSM

Jonathan Alter, Newsweek editor and columnist, is generally considered a pillar the Mainstream Media (MSM). He recently got into a tiff with online reporter Jebediah Reed of Radar Online, and the result was not pretty. He decided to attack a young reporter and show him how the MSM takes care of those who dare to dis it. A lot of the smoke has now cleared though, and it's Alter's mangled body that lies trampled on the floor. This would be of minor note if it were not for the fact that Alter's tantrum exhibits a lot of the things wrong with the way that he and his colleagues engage in journalistic malpractice. Alter's column on Huffpost is here . First he has to complain about bloggers: There's one dimension of the blogosphere that never ceases to amaze me: Some people disbelieve nearly everything they read in the "mainstream media" -- and believe nearly everything they read online. Never mind that the ground-breaking reporting on which they base their

Grim Fates

One of my great fears is being stranded on a desert island with nothing to read but the thirteen volumes of Tim Lehaye's and Jerry Jenkins' bestselling magnum opus - The Left Behind Series . Being eaten alive by army ants doesn't sound like much fun either. One of the reasons I suspect that Dick Cheney has already died and gone to Hell is that his travelling instructions specify that every television in his hotel rooms will be turned on and tuned to Fox News.

Where's Buffy?

The wreckage of the Republican party is everywhere these days. Its severed limbs and rotting corpses litter the political battlefield, and the stench of corruption reeks from a hundred loathsome wounds. It still can inspire terror as well as disgust though, and nothing more so than the undead political corpses of Alberto Gonzales and Paul Wolfowitz. The undead yet wield power though soul and spirit have flown the body. That peculiar power and persistence flows, let us remember, from the owner's bargain and alliance with Satan. The old remedies of garlic and crucifix seem to have lost much of their power, and the wooden stake is hard to wield. Most fearsome of all, the ancient cleansing power of Sunlight seems to have been blunted. In two days of testimony before Congress, Fredo, aided only slightly by Orrin Hatch and other Satanic powers, did little more than smoke around the edges, while all our legends say he should have self-incinerated like a bit of thermite. New remedies


Humans, especially but not only civilized humans, are all engaged in various cooperative, collaborative, and collective enterprises. These various types of corporations, as they are sometimes called in economics, present some challenges to classical economic theory, due to the fact that they inhibit perfect capitalistic competition. They are also uncongenial to the various libertarian and Randian ideologues, since they don't comport well with their fantasy universes. Yes, you guessed it. I am a bit provoked by a bit of libertarian snark in the comments. Collectivism is their nastiest curse word I suppose. There is some historical provocation. Some of the worst communist crimes were committed in the establishment of various so-called "collective" enterprises - really enslavement by the state. If you want to equate all forms of enforced cooperation with the worst evils of communism, you are making an unreasonable extrapolation. On the other hand, if you want to pret

Are We To Godfather III Yet?

Given that Fredo is obviously committing perjury and withholding and concealing evidence of a crime, is there any chance he will be impeached soon? Tried for perjury and obstruction? Is Congress just going through the motions or is this story going somewhere eventually? I'm getting tired of shaggy dog stories.

Theory, Models, and Measurement in Climate Science

One sign that climate science is in a vigorous state is the confluence of rapid developments in theory, models, and measurements. Eli Rabett has emphasized that nothing in climate science makes sense except in the light of theory. This is absolutely true of every mature science. It is the failure to appreciate this point that makes most of the criticisms of evolution, climate science, and other unpopular truths so shallow and worthless. When I was a young GI I worked with a number of civilian engineers, one of whom tried to point out flaws in evolution to me. His idea of how to do this was to tell me about some site where something supposedly old had been found above strata supposedly much younger. I didn't know much about either biology or geology, but I did know enough to know that his argument was a waste of time. The fact that I knew nothing about the site in question, those who had supposedly investigated it, or what criteria they had used in reaching their conclusions

Alma Mater

Jim Robbins in The New York Times has this story Walking on the Wild Side of a Montana University , my alma mater. Things appear to have changed a little. The student body has tripled and the town has apparently nearly doubled in population. Civilization hasn't completely triumphed here though: This year up-and-coming biologists from Argentina, Bhutan, Israel, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Poland, Scotland and Taiwan have come here to study and be close to wildlife. The main draw is that, unlike other leading wildlife programs at places like Yale and Berkeley, the elk and grizzlies and wolves are right outside the door. In turn the students bring a sprinkling of international spice to this small city where the sight of wolves taking down a deer or the yipping of coyotes is not uncommon, but foreigners walking the street are novelties. About a third of the 55 graduate students are from abroad. Hmmm? I'm a native Montanan, and I spent a bit more than four years in Missoula, but I c

Publicize and Be Damned!

Steve Clemons reports that Wolfowitz is trying to get a substantial payoff for resigning from the World Bank and keeping his mouth shut about corruption there other than his own. According to some insiders, Wolfowitz wants "some acknowledgment" of the Bank Board's complicity in the messy circumstances surrounding his and Shaha Riza's situation. Secondly, allegedly on June 1st, Wolfowitz becomes eligible for some large financial bonus -- for performance and time on the job. One estimate puts this figure at about $400,000. Wolfowitz wants to make sure those funds are credited to his private bank account before saying farewell to an institution that has come to despise him. Both sides have threatened each other with slow, painful, drip-drip approach to the release of damaging information that each side has about the other. One blast in the battle are revelations that it costs the Bank a whopping $5 million per year to pay for Wolfowitz's security detail. Others have

Clueless NYT to Bush: Fire AG

The New York Time's editorial this morning is undercuts its message with studied obtuseness. The editors look at the scandal and note its ever expanding tentacles: Mr. Gonzales, Mr. Sampson and the others have given so many conflicting, barely credible stories for the firings that it is impossible not to suspect a cover-up. Some of the fired prosecutors strengthened that impression last week in written statements to Congress, in which they described being pressured by Michael Elston, an aide to the deputy attorney general, not to talk about their dismissals. John McKay, of Seattle, said his impression was that “Mr. Elston’s tone was sinister” and that he was “prepared to threaten me further if he concluded I did not intend to continue to remain silent about my dismissal.” So far so good. Then: In her statement, Ms. Lam said that she was given just weeks to pack up, and that Justice Department officials told her that her dismissal came “from the very highest levels of the governm

Hey, That Was My Tornado

I notice that Matt Drudge used a picture of "my tornado" for his latest tornado story. I didn't take the picture, but I still have a proprietary feeling about it. Compare below .

Creative Destruction

Joseph Schumpeter was one of the most influential economists of the twentieth century, notable, among other things, for his advocacy of the importance of the entrepreneur in economic growth. His most famous phrase is probably "creative destruction," his name for the process whereby entrepreneurial innovations displace and destroy established businesses and business models. It's not surprising that both the phrase and the ideas are more popular among economists than among those in the crosshairs of the destruction end of this meme. The notion of creative destruction is hardly unique to capitalism. Lenin and Pol Pot no doubt thought they were engaged in creative destruction. Nor is the idea new. The Hindu Goddess Kali is the goddess of creation and destruction. The process of destruction linked to creation is inherent in life, and indeed even in the evolution of stars, galaxies, and perhaps the universe. Negative entropy (or free energy) is exported by stars, the pro

Cry, Cry, Baby Now!

James Rowley has a revealing story on Monica Goodling that sheds some light on the network of corruption that leads (so far) back to Karl Rove and Harriet Meiers. Goodling apparently knew already that she would have to take the fall. A former U.S. Justice Department official and central figure in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys tearfully told a colleague two months ago her government career probably was over as the matter was about to erupt into a political storm, according to closed-door congressional testimony. Monica Goodling, at the time an aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, sobbed for 45 minutes in the office of career Justice Department official David Margolis on March 8 as she related her fears that she would have to quit, according to congressional aides briefed on Margolis's private testimony to House and Senate investigators... Three hours before Goodling visited his fourth-floor office, Margolis told House and Senate investigators that Sampson dropped by to


A Huffpost headline on the Republican debate last night was "Ten middle-aged white men." Well, not really. McCain is 70 or 71. Giuliani and Romney are pretty close to Medicare themselves. The clearly middle-aged candidates are Huckabee and Brownback among the Repu and Obama and Edwards among the Dems. The rest are all pretty much old. Physical decline in humans is evident at 40 and prominent at 50. Ditto for some types of mental function. Knowledge and experience is worth something until 60 or so, but it's downhill from there.

Triumph of News-Speak

News Corp is extending it's sinister tentacles to attempt to engulf The Wall Street Journal , which, if you tear out the editorial pages, is one of the best US papers - one of the few worthwhile US papers. By and large, Australians seem like a nice enough bunch to me, but I really can't forgive them for unloading Rupert Murdoch on us. He and his scumbags at Faux News, etc. have been relentless cheerleaders for Bush and the Bush-Murdoch Iraq war. I really think we have plenty of evidence to convict him of treason for that alone. Purely as a prophyllactic measure, I suggest that we deport him to Australia and then turn Oz into a missile test range. We should probably embed a number of radio beacons for aiming purposes. Has Australia had an astronaught yet? Nothing personal - its just an application of the doctrine of pre-emption. Unless you Aussies can suggest some sort of neutral rocket and missile test zone. Are we saving Texas for anything?


William M. Connolley has a bit more on the accelerating disappearance of Arctic sea ice. He also links to this story . It has a graph as well as a picture of a pretty hot ice-scientist co-author.

Vortex Blow

While we sat in a meeting yesterday to clean up the loose ends of bureaucratic misunderstandings and hurt feelings, somebody rushed into the conference room and announced: "I know this is a really important meeting, but there are two tornados right out there" and he pointed right through the concrete wall at my back. Naturally, we all rushed outside to get a look. There they were - the first tornadoes I had ever seen in real life. The skinnier white one might just have been a funnel cloud, since I couldn't see where or if it touched down, but the other one was very nice, moving very slowly, about three miles away, and quite firmly attached at the surface. Most of us true weather weenies quickly moved to the roof of the building for a better look. It was ideal tornado watching weather - only a sprinkle of rain, dust only near the base and a clear line of sight to a slow moving twister. After a while, as the tornado appeared to start to dissipate, the sirens sounded and we

Scratch a Conservative?

The Master of Shrillblog gets a little shrill. Earth to Thomas Sowell: Francisco Franco Is Still Dead Thomas Sowell, fascist, writes in National Review: Thomas Sowell on National Review Online: When I see the worsening degeneracy in our politicians, our media, our educators, and our intelligentsia, I can’t help wondering if the day may yet come when the only thing that can save this country is a military coup. That is the entire thought. There is no further explanation. I'm not worried about our military, but those Blackwater guys make me pretty nervous.

IPCC Busted?!

This Reuters story reports that the Arctic Ocean is melting a lot faster than predicted in the (deliberately conservative) IPCC reports. the ocean at the top of the world could be free or nearly free of summer ice by 2020, three decades sooner than the global panel's gloomiest forecast of 2050. No ice on the Arctic Ocean during summer would be a major spur to global warming, said Ted Scambos, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Center in Colorado. Ice has a very high albedo, reflecting most incoming light back into space, but open water has a low albedo, hence less ice means more sunlight absorbed.


Four years down the pike from Mission Accomplished , Editor and Publisher takes a look at the coverage. Greg Mitchell's story starts our with a fitting reminder of why we despise Chris Matthews: "He won the war," boomed MSNBC's Chris Matthews. "He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics." The story is about the NYT coverage though, and it was a mixed bag. The much maligned Judy Miller pretty much reported the facts. Ditto Michael Gordon and Eric Schmitt. Elisabeth Bumiller did her usual stenogragphy. Most egregious was Maureen Dowd. She slithered out of her den to get all multi-orgasmic about W's flight suit and ejection harness swaddled crotch: Maureen Dowd, column, May 4 The tail hook caught the last cable, jerking the fighter jet from 150 m.p.h. to zero in two seconds. Out bounded the cocky, rule-breaking, daredevil flyboy, a man navigating the Highway to the Danger Zone, out along the edges where he