Thursday, June 30, 2005

Debunking the Debunkers - American Prospect Online

Debunking the Debunkers - American Prospect Online

The Wall Street Journal lost me as a subscriber a while back because, thought their reporting on events was good, their editorial policy was, well, not to my liking.

What precipitated my departure was their support for Bjorn Lomborg and their adoration of his book, The Skeptical Environmentalist, which I read and though was clearly bullshit (along with a bunch of other people whose views I respect).

When WSJ's support of Lomborg extended to their completely ignoring news of Lomborg's censure by the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty (not one syllable in the WSJ), I left.

Now WSJ is debunking climate change science on their editorial pages, and their Rep. Barton has scheduled hearings in the House to that end.

One can only hope that the Barton hearings will trip them up on the basis that when you call hearings, you have to actually listen to testimony.

Or maybe that's the catch.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Only 85 years of Uranium Supplies?

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY BLOG: Only 85 years of Uranium Supplies?

James in London publishes one of the blogs I regularly visit and whose RSS feed I subscribe to. He's got a good blog and puts out good information. I clicked on one of his Google adds because the company it linked to is preparing to market roof-top heliostats, which are a particular interest of mine. I built a small heliostat back in 1978, and then again in college about eight years later. It worked, too. I think heliostats make a great deal of sense and I wish them all the success in the world.

In the post I link here, James reports on the position of some anti-nuclear people, the New Economics Foundation. I think the position of the NEF is unwise, so I tried to make a case to that effect. I only regret that there were a couple of things I didn't say (possibly due to haste in the service of domestic tranquility).

What I should have included was that my support of nuclear energy in no way is meant to denigrate any clean energy source. I support anything that makes sense on the energetic front (I worry that some popular renewable schemes don't provide substantial positive net energy, but that's the subject of a prior post).

I might have included that a joule of nuclear energy might displace one from coal, and I might have mentioned support of conservation. I can always think of ways I might have said things more better, eh? Oh, well, maybe some of James' other readers will make those points for me.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Corrupt Hypocrites, and Stupid, Too

"I hate to ask your help with something so silly," Jack Abramoff wrote to his friend Daniel Lapin on September 15, 2000. Abramoff, of course, is the now-disgraced Republican lobbyist who stands accused of defrauding several Indian tribes of millions of dollars and trying to buy off various Republican congressmen. Lapin is a Seattle-based rabbi who is a close friend and spiritual advisor to Abramoff. Now Abramoff, at the time still hustling his way to the top of Washington lobbying, was coming to him for help:

I have been nominated for membership in the Cosmos Club, which is a very distinguished club in Washington, DC, comprised of Nobel Prize winners, etc. Problem for me is that most prospective members have received awards and I have received none. I was wondering if you thought it possible that I could put that I have received an award from Toward Tradition with a sufficiently academic title, perhaps something like Scholar of Talmudic Studies?... Indeed, it would be even better if it were possible that I received these in years past, if you know what I mean. Anyway, I think you see what I am trying to finagle here!

Indeed he did. "Mazel tov, the Cosmos Club is a big deal," Lapin replied. A few days, later the rabbi wrote again:

Let's organize your many prestigous awards so they're ready to 'hang on the wall.'... I just need to know what needs to be produced. Letters? Plaques? Neither?

"Probably just a few clever titles of awards, dates and that's it," Abramoff replied.

Clever indeed. ...

These guys were around when Ollie North [*] got himself in trouble over emails he thought he'd deleted. That they were so free in their email exchanges shows them to be stupid. Maybe that's why they are corrupt.

[*] "...self-incriminating computer notes that indicated his deep involvement in drug trafficking, as North did; ..."

If there's a Hell, there's got to be a special corner just for assholes like these.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

"Iraq is gonna get it."

All this talk about the 2002 Downing Street memos again brings back a memory seared into my brain by the surprise I felt at the time.

This was a week or two after the WTC attack on September 11, 2001, a time during which all sorts of closed-door meetings were being held in the Senate and elsewhere. The media, it seemed, had reporters and cameras parked outside these closed doors at all times.

At the conclusion of one of these meetings (probably a meeting of the Senate Intelligence or Foreign Relations Committees), as the members streamed out from behind the massive doors, a camera at about shoulder height recorded the sights and sounds of the distinguished gentlemen passing by.

As Senator Jesse Helms walked past the camera he looked at it and said, "Iraq is gonna get it."

I was floored by the indiscretion of the statement and because it was the first mention I'd heard of Iraq in connection with the WTC attack. My sense is that Iraq was always "gonna get it" and that the WTC attack only added further cover.

As the Iraq invasion drew closer and closer my position became that the war was probably necessary. The real reason had to do with bringing about change in the Arab Muslim world, to increase the chances for democratic change, which would, in turn, make the governments there more answerable to the populace, thereby reducing conditions leading to Islamic radicalism and terror. Something like that. In other words, I thought the neocons might be right.

I thought the neocons might be right in the sense of John Perry Barlow's brilliant "SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL". Barlow was trying to understand events, and came up with his Mexican-drunk-driver-ploy analogy (sorry, you'll just have to read his piece).

I don't know if Barlow's take is correct, whether the neocons were right, or much of anything in this world. But when Helms quipped, "Iraq is gonna get it," I was stunned.

I'm puzzled, now, by the fact that I can't find any references to his quip. I'd have though someone besides me registered it. Hell, maybe it was a dream.

Saturday, June 18, 2005




...on the research on mind, brain, and behavior that may be relevant to gender disparities in the sciences, including the studies of bias, discrimination and innate and acquired difference between the sexes.

Harvard University • Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Hansey RIP

It was my greatest displeasure today to have to put down another pet.

Hansey, our 15-year-old or so long-haired dachshund went down literally (count them, as I did) in five seconds, peacefully, with not the slightest twitch of discomfort.

Actually, it was more like four and a half seconds. I shit you not: it was just that fast.

We should treat people with such humanity.

The vet and his assistant were both, individually, highly compassionate and professional. The vet, rightfully, reserved for himself the decision of whether the time was right. That he immediately agreed made the act a bit less bothersome for me, and made my wife (who bore the burden of decision) feel better about her decision. He warned me that in older dogs with poor circulation it might take a bit longer than usual, but afterwards he also told me that the rapidity of the transition was further indication that Hansey was "ready to go." Nice man. Nice assistant. It's got to be hard on them, too, to provide this service, no matter how many times they've done it.

Our son has been around for the passing of two of our other dogs (one by accident, one by euthanasia). Now, though, Eddie's probably old enough to understand better what goes on. I think this marks a milestone in his development.

Sleep tight Hansey. Onward and upward.

SCOTUS Motivates NORML Membership


The idea that private, intra-state, non-commercial, medically driven provision or acquisition of marijuana (in a state that has deemed such things legal under its own laws) is enough to justify the federal government's exercise of federal law enforcement powers under the commerce clause of the federal constitution, as the US Supreme Court just ruled, is a ridiculous travesty.

NORML can thank the Supreme Court for at least one new membership.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

The New Republic Online: Joint Venture

Here is a different take on the medical marijuana ruling. The New Republic's Editors think the decision was correct because, had the Supreme Court ruled against the government in this case, it would have opened the door to challenges of many other regulatory schemes.


In essence, TNR's editors are arguing that slavery should not have been addressed because it might have threatened other property rights. (Yeah, yeah. Close enough.)

What a weird conservatism.

The notion that private, non-commercial, entirely intra-state medical marijuana activities impact inter-state drug traffic enough to validate federal commerce clause authority is just asinine. What the court has done is validate scoffing at the law, which in this case is an ass.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Commerce Clause, Supreme Court and Bullshit

Though the Supreme Court's decision on medical marijuana is pretty much what I expected (cynic that I've become), I am thoroughly disgusted. The idea that traffic in medical marijuana impacts overall drug trade enough to invoke federal commerce clause powers is contemptible and nothing more.

As Prof. David Bernstein writes in his post at Volokh, there's a lot of hypocrisy going on. Actually, Bernstein wrote that "The five-member majority of the Court simply does not take federalism seriously", which is close enough for me.

Nothing's necessarily changed in the practical sense, but something should have changed. I was hoping for a little honesty, a little sanity, but no. Power and money talk.

In San Francisco we have the chief narc saying We respect state law and we're not going to shut down all the medical marijuana clubs tomorrow. Well, why the hell not? It's the law! Shut them down, damn it!

Prosecutorial discretion - what a crock.

Selective enforcement of the law is a tool of the tyrant. Got a rabblerouser on the loose? Bust him for a joint and put him away for 30 years. It's happened, and it'll happen again. It ought never happen. That's why selective enforcement of the law is evil, prosecutorial discretion is evil, and why laws ought not exist if they're not to be enforced uniformly.

God! I am so disgusted.

The usual suspects urge us to urge our representatives to back the Hinchey-Rohrabacher measure to prohibit the spending of federal money to undermine the will of the States, and the Truth in Trials Act, which would allow victims of federal meddling to introduce testimony that they followed State law. I've done that, but it probably amounts to no more than log flogging. My representative is on the dark side. I'd be shocked to hear he'd reconsidered.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

FOUL FELT - Yahoo! News

FOUL FELT - Yahoo! News: "As evidence accumulated of wrongdoing and crime, he reported not to the director of the FBI (his immediate superior), not to the Justice Department, but to the two journalists."

Jesus Christ Bill! What was he supposed to do? The two you mention were IN ON IT!

I can't believe this is from Buckley. Had he suggested that Felt should have gone to Congress, OK, but to those two?! Come on.

EnergyPulse - Insight Analysis and Commentary on the Global Power Industry

This piece is notable because it mentions population as part of the energy problem, something which is so obvious it should go without saying. It goes without saying, though, because of a taboo about raising population issues.

The perfectly reasonable projections here and here tell the story very clearly.

Matt Miller - Is Persuasion Dead? - New York Times

"Is persuasion dead? And if so, does it matter?
I'm not the only one who amid this mess wonders if he shouldn't be looking at another line of work. A top conservative thinker called recently, dejected at the sight of Ann Coulter on the cover of Time. What's the point of being substantive, he cried, when all the attention goes to the shrill?

But the embarrassing truth is that we earnest chin-strokers often get it wrong anyway. Take me. I hadn't thought much about Iraq before I read Ken Pollack's book, 'The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq,' a platonic ideal of careful analysis meant to persuade. It worked. I was persuaded! So what should we conclude when a talent like Pollack can convince us - and then the whole thing turns out to be based on a premise (W.M.D.) that is false?

If serious efforts to get it right can lead to tragic errors, why care about a culture of persuasion at all? On one level, everyone needs a good rationalization at the core of his professional life; mine holds that the struggle to think things through, even when we fail, is redeeming.

But beyond this, the gap between the cartoon of public life that the press and political establishment often serve up and the pragmatic open-mindedness of most Americans explains why so many people tune out - and how we might get them to tune back in. Alienation is the only intelligent response to a political culture that insults our intelligence.


Alienation is the only intelligent response to a political culture that insults our intelligence.

That was worth repeating. So is this: "... the struggle to think things through, even when we fail, is redeeming ..."

This is compatible with my basically nihilistic outlook. Little matters outside my own sphere. I do it for myself.

(Nihilism is another of those terms you'd better define when you use it. "Nihilistic" refers, in this instance, to the reality that little or nothing of what I do or think matters outside of my own experience of life. The word is just a description, not a label for some philosophy.)

I think Miller overestimates most of those who are tuned out. A distinction exists between those who never tuned in and those who tune out. I don't think many of the ones Miller refers to care about Paris Hilton. Unfortunately, those who do seem to vastly outnumber the ones in Miller's scope.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Milton Friedman: Legalize It! -

"'I've long been in favor of legalizing all drugs,' he says, but not because of the standard libertarian arguments for unrestricted personal freedom. 'Look at the factual consequences: The harm done and the corruption created by these laws...the costs are one of the lesser evils.'

Not that a man of his years expects reason to triumph. Any added revenues from taxing legal marijuana would almost certainly be more than spent, by this or any other Congress.

'Deficits are the only thing that keeps this Congress from spending more' says Friedman. 'Republicans are no different from Democrats. Spending is the easiest way to buy votes.' A sober assessment indeed."

The whole piece can be read at the link above. It's cached here, too. Hat tip to Pete Guither.

Drug prohibition is so damned stupid.