Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pick five, any five

What Matters Most to You?:
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Friday, December 12, 2008

Brain Boosting FAQ: What You Must Know

Brain Boosting FAQ: What You Must Know
Polls suggest that as many as one in five scientists already take brain-boosting drugs -- usually the stimulants Ritalin, Adderall, or Provigil.

And there's nothing wrong with that, suggest the authors of a provocative editorial in this week's issue of the science journal Nature.

"We call for a presumption that mentally competent adults should be able to engage in cognitive enhancement using drugs," they write. The editorial also calls for further research into the risks and benefits of using drugs in this way.

It's a prominent list of authors:

I'm no scientist, but I am my own ethicist, so I went to my doctor a couple of months ago and asked him for a prescription for Provigil, which I wanted in order to check out the anti-sleepiness effect and the cognitive boost. Mostly the latter. He said No, it wasn't indicated, and he was cautions about the possibility of severe side effects, as small as the odds may be.

"Get more sleep," he told me. Yeah, I know, but that's just not working out. Not enough time in the day to do the things I want to do.

Oh, well...

Is it cheating or unnatural to use brain-boosting drugs?

Yes, say critics such as Leon R. Kass, MD, chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics. It is cheating. But even worse, it's unnatural.

"One major trouble with biotechical (especially mental) 'improvers' is that they produce changes in us by disrupting the normal character of human being-at-work-in-the-world ... which, when find and full, constitutes human flourishing," Kass wrote in 2003. "With biotechnical interventions that skip the realm of intelligible meaning, we cannot really own the transformations nor experience them as genuinely ours."

This loss, Kass argues, subtracts from our humanity.

Bullshit, Dr. Kass. Bullshit.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

KopBusters- Barry Cooper goes undercover to expose Odessa Police :: Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

KopBusters- Barry Cooper goes undercover to expose Odessa Police :: Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog

Good for Barry Cooper! More power to Barry Cooper!

I think I'll show some support. It'll have to be later, though, because his shopping site is down due to high traffic as I type. I hope it's due to many new supporters surfing to Cooper's web site, not because of some authoritarian schmuck's denial of service attack.


Conscientious Objector to ONDCP's "Moral Seriousness"

Hit & Run > John Walters' Well-Kept Secret: 'Our Drug Policy Is a Success' - Reason Magazine

"The good news in drug policy," Walters writes, "is that we know what works, and that is moral seriousness." Moral seriousness on this subject would require taking into account half a million nonviolent drug offenders behind bars, the victims of black market violence, avoidable deaths caused by the unreliable quality and unsanitary practices that prohibition fosters, the risk-premium subsidy to thugs and terrorists, the corruption of law enforcement officials, and the loss of civil liberties resulting from the drug war's perversion of the Constitution. Walters' claim to moral seriousness is therefore hard to take seriously. I'd settle for a little bit of intellectual seriousness from whomever Barack Obama chooses to succeed Walters, but it seems to be incompatible with the job.

Yesterday I happened upon the John Walters piece in the online WSJ that Jacob Sullum responds to above. The claim to moral seriousness by Mr. Walters jumped out at me immediately and filled me with contempt and disrespect.

Our national drug policy is the stupidest goddamn thing I've ever seen.

I am a conscientious objector in the War on Some Drugs.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Appeals court rules no jury trial for strippers

Appeals court rules no jury trial for strippers | Arizona Politics |

Hmmm... Let's see...
People accused of violating city ordinances ... are not entitled to ... a jury, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

... The judges said the right to trial by jury is not available to everyone.


... two sections of the Arizona Constitution guarantee the right of a trial by jury. But he said those provisions are not absolute.

One governs only crimes which were eligible for jury trials when Arizona became a state in 1912. The other covers crimes the Legislature or whoever adopted the law considered "serious," regardless of the punishment available.


As to the issue of whether the crime is "serious," Thompson said the general rule of thumb is that no right of a jury trial exists for misdemeanors which have a punishment of no greater than six months in jail. That is the maximum penalty for the charges at issue here.


Six months in jail sounds pretty damned serious to me. In any event, if it's not serious, why is all this time and money being tied up in dealing with it. Are there no truly serious issues at hand?

Damned puritans...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Light Echo Mind Warp

NASA's APOD site featured a four-frame animated GIF of this sequence of shots back in 2003. Yesterday, the Boston Globe's Big Shot feed featured a larger, five-frame version at the top of their growing Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar 2008.

What appears to be a spectacular explosion, complete with ejected matter, is actually a "light echo".

(By the way, I snagged the pictures in this post from this HubbleSite news release and included them here for better flow.)

Light echo? What seemed, at first, to be a pretty simple concept, got more complicated the more I thought about it. Eventually I just let it go, but now I think I've got it.

OK, the basic idea of a light echo is pretty simple. Shine a flashlight on something and see the light echo off of it. Look at the night sky and see the sun's light echo off of the moon. Simple, so what was my problem?

The star V838 Mons had been observed producing a tremendous burst of light, like a strobe flashing light in all directions. Once. Think of an old-time flash bulb.

I could easily envision a spherical shell of light expanding outwards from the central source. Obviously, when that thin, expanding shell of light encounters something, it illuminates it for the duration of the original flash, and then the shell moves on. Whatever we see in these dramatic images, we see thanks to the original, central flash of light echoing off of the matter it encounters as its thin, sperical shell expands at the speed of light.

Once I accepted the notion that what we see is not ejecta from an explosion, but rather, illumination of matter that was already there, things got a little bit clearer.

But wait! How could it be that, whereas we'd already seen the original light pass the Earth's position some time back, now we're seeing that same light bounced off of matter surrounding the star from whence said light came?

Well, light that bounced off of something before it reached you had to take a longer path, so it took longer to get here.

Yes, but look at the image. We're seeing light supposedly bounced off a shell of matter surrounding the flash star, which is presumably at the center of the illuminated matter. The distance from Earth to the star is much, much greater than the apparent distance from one edge of the illuminated matter back to the central flash point. How could the expanding shell of light have illuminated that surrounding matter that we see in the images after we've long since seen the original flash from the star? Something didn't seem to make sense to me.

What I had failed to assimilate is the concept illustrated below:

The matter off of which the light from the flash is echoing (the reason we can see it) is actually only coming from a small part of the spherical shell of light from the original flash, the part behind the star that flashed. The distance from edge to edge of the image we see is defined by an almost flat, circular disc within the thickness of the spherical shell (which thickness is the duration of the original flash times the speed of light). The reason it's an almost flat disk is that all of the light in the image had to arrive at the Hubble at about the same time, which means it must have originated at the intersection of the two spheres defined by the flash sphere and the sphere defined by the distance from the Hubble to the back edge of the flash sphere (which is essentially a plain within the tiny piece of that much larger sphere).

Maybe I can draw a picture to illustrate this, but it'll have to be later.

I feel SO much better now that I think I have a decent understanding of this "light echo" business. The picture is not of traveling ejecta, and it is not of interstellar matter surrounding the flash star. The picture is of matter behind the flash star that was illuminated by the original flash. The distance from the flash star to the back surface of the spherical shell of flashed light, and then back to the flash star (on its way to the Hubble), defines the difference in time between the original flash and its echo as seen here on Earth by the Hubble Space Telescope.

I'll have to try to wordsmith this a bit more, but later. Stuff to take care of now.

Amazing stuff.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Phishing and Spam IQ Quiz by SonicWALL

Phishing and Spam IQ Quiz by SonicWALL

I really didn't expect to get 100% right on this quiz, but I did. There were some questions in which it was not clear to me whether the thing was a phish or not, but if I had received something like it I would have treated it as a phish.

I think this was a very good and useful exercise. On the results page at the end you can click a "Why?" link for information about why each example was, or wasn't, a phish.

Good on SonicWALL for hosting this quiz.

I guess the bottom line is to be very suspicious of links in emails. There are some sneaky bastards out there.

Illusion of progress

Fraser: The illusion of progress in the drug war - Milford, MA - The Milford Daily News
Perhaps the non-performing drug war programs are not really expected to deliver on their publicly stated goals, but continue because they serve a very different purpose.
Perhaps? Perhaps??

The author is correct, of course, and goes on to mention politicians pandering to authoritarians, preservation of funding and job security for prison operators and guards.

I wonder how likely it is that "black budget hiding place" is a big reason for continuance of the War on Some Drugs? Seems likely to me, along with usefulness in certain covert operations.

I don't know anything except that national drug policy is the stupidest goddamn thing I've ever seen. Not to worry, though, because President Obama has promised to end programs that don't work.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hole Into Space


The level of ignorance in the Arab world is staggering.

I recently re-deployed from a 14 month combat tour in northern Iraq, near the city of Kirkuk. This is a very secular area, relatively peaceful and with good education.

Early in our deployment, some of our Soldiers were talking with one of the Iraqi Army units in the area at their headquarters. The Iraqi Army (IA) officers were university educated, secular professional soldiers, most of whom held rank during the Saddam era.

As usual, a TV set was on, and everyone watched as a Space Shuttle launched toward the ISS. A short time into the launch, the shuttle began it's roll program to head East and gain advantage from the Earth's rotation. Some of the IA officers began chattering in Arabic, and the translator said they were talking about the Shuttle heading for Israel.

When American officers asked what they meant, they explained (as to idiots) that the Shuttle had to aim for the hole into space left after the Mohammed ascended into heaven all those years ago.

The clinching evidence? When Columbia and Challanger were destroyed, it was because THEY MISSED THE HOLE INTO SPACE!

This was not expressed as a joke, or as a religious story - it was explained as a simple "truth".

Mind boggling.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

2008 List / Google Docs

sls gift list
Desktop bell
Fresnel Lens Magnifying Glass
4 oz. bottle of UltraGlow paint
Uranium Glass Marbles
Zero Blaster
K7 Truncated Octahedron
50 of these S4G's

This was really just a test of publishing from Google Docs directly to the blog. Worked OK except for extra blank lines between the items, which I edited out in the Blogger editor.

I learned that when you publish a document in Google Docs (to the web, not the blog), if you also share it with the people you invite to look at it (if you set them up as Collaborator anyway, probably not as Viewer), links in the document won't work unless the person goes "File -> View as web page" (using the document's File menu, not the browser's File menu).

I suppose the rationale is that if someone is a Collaborator, then it's logical that they'll want to edit the document, and during editing the links don't work. I think that's consistent with Word, in which you have to hit some key combination along with the click of the link if you want to follow the link.

I really don't have any need to collaborate with people on any documents, but if I ever do, I think Google Docs will work fine.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Vision for America

I responded to a solicitation from the Obama transition team for a donation towards the inaugural ceremonies, for which the new administration will not accept the usual corporate and lobbyist cash. Since I like that, I sent in some money.

Along the way there was a request for people's visions for the country. Well, "vision for the country" is somewhat more expansive than the writing I was prepared to do, but prompted by having just looked at the annual report from the Drug Policy Alliance, I figured What the heck, and sent in the following:

This is just a little piece of my vision for the country. Writing about "my vision" will take a little longer than the time and space I have here.

One element of the vision I have for the country involves the War on Some Drugs, private prisons, privacy rights and individual responsibility.

Our national drug policy is the stupidest goddamn thing I've ever seen. It does not serve the public interest, but does very nicely for certain special interests, including drug warriors, drug producers and merchants, various vendors, and several others.

The War on Some Drugs wastes something on the order of 60 billion dollars per year while furthering erosion of civil rights (and foregoing significant tax revenue that could be raised in a legal market). All the while, it advances abominations like civil forfeiture, breeds scofflaws and creates antipathy among our neighbors to the south.

ONDCP's mandate to counter efforts to change the law is an affront to liberty that gives rise to some of the most risible propaganda I've ever seen.

If the country can somehow achieve rationality in dealing with the drugs problem (and it is a problem, just not a law enforcement problem), my hopes for the future will be raised.

Thoughts on energy and the environment | The Obama-Biden Transition Team

Inside the Transition: Your thoughts on energy and the environment | The Obama-Biden Transition Team: "Heather Zichal"

I like what the transition team is doing with their updates and requests for input. They are making it hard for the cynic in me to come out.

They asked for thoughs, so I submitted this:

You know, watching Heather Zichal's video update (great job presenting!) I was left hoping that your energy and environment team has some heavy technical hitters on board. By this I mean people who have an appreciation for the concept of embedded energy, people who understand the concept of base load and the need for energy storage as a part of the renewables picture, and people who understand why we need more nuclear energy as quickly as it can be brought on board. (McCain was right about this.)

I think that energy security is, bar none, the most important issue (possibly in a first place tie with one or two others), but my continued sense that Democrats fear nuclear energy and will fight it rather than nurture it worries me greatly.

Along these lines, Heather's reference to the "cars, trucks and SUV's of tomorrow" discouraged me because what is needed is not SUV's of tomorrow, but the elimination of the "need" for SUV's tomorrow.

Please make sure you have credible technical people, and a mix of them, of your team. Amory Lovins is great but I don't think he should be left unsupervised. Make sure you've got technical representation from among the Peak Oil community. Talk to Robert Hirsch of SAIC, Matt Simmons of Simmons & Company.

And, for God's sake, banish the idea of corn ethanol! I know Mr. Obama is from Illinois, but corn ethanol is a bad move anyway because of its marginal energy return and impact on food prices.

I get the impression that energy discussions among the transition team are being held among political people, and I'm not confident that you've got sufficient technical/scientific representation.

One more thing, please don't even consider Robert Kennedy for a high, policy making role. His stance on thimerosal in vaccines bucks the overwhelming consensus of the relevant scientific community. He reminds me of greenhouse gas skeptics, and I don't think he's qualified to head an agency so dependent on science as the EPA.

Good luck!

The 63 Questions

The 63 Questions the Obama Administration Must Answer | Background Check News
Apparently, does not offer the famous 63-question questionnaire for download. Instead, you have to submit a statement of interest in a job with the Obama administration. Once they're interested in you, they'll ask you to answer the 63 questions.

You can see the questionnaire in the form of a scanned PDF at various places, or read the thing in text form at the Crimcheck website. Thanks for that, Crimcheck. Classy of you to host your own copy of the PDF and, especially, to transcribe the questionnaire into text.
[Update: I put the text here.]

Right wingers seem to be looking at this extensive questionnaire as an example of Obama hypocrisy, noting, for instance, that much of the questionnaire was off limits regarding Mr. Obama himself during the campaign. I don't know about that and I doubt if it is true, but I don't care because it is irrelevant.

I guess the purpose for such an extensive questionnaire is to try to avoid the avoidable during the confirmation process, which is probably a good thing to try to do. Zoe Baird might have been confirmed (or she might have been disqualified, thereby avoiding the whole issue) if her employment of domestic servants had been known about as a potential issue up front, and dealt with appropriately. Giuliani's buddy, the one who wanted to be boss of homeland security, is another example where an extensive questionnaire might have come in handy.

I don't see anything wrong with the questionnaire, except that it might deter some good applicants from applying for lesser posts (applicants for posts requiring confirmation already know they're in for a wringer). It's like one of those forms you fill out for a security clearance, only on steroids.

Most of the questions would be easy for me to answer simply because I'm a nobody who keeps his meager financial affairs simple. I'd be uncertain about some answers, such as whether the guys I hired to trim my palm trees were legally eligible to work in the U.S. at the time. Hell, I don't know!

Question 59 is, well, questionable.
59. Do you or any members of your immediate family own a gun? If so, provide complete ownership and registration information. Has the registration ever lapsed? Please also describe how and by whom it is used and whether it has been the cause of any person injuries or property damage.
The question sticks out like a lion in Alaska, and its inclusion in the questionnaire indicates a lapse of judgment on the part of the transition team (though it may be in keeping with the general temperament there).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


At the end of the day, I personally shouldn't of wrote this, even if it does, with all due respect, absolutely present a fairly unique synergy of outside the box thinking and low-hanging fruit.

Going forward, I'll bring to the table a proactive, high-level paradigm shift that will take cliches to the next level by drilling down to the core competencies of interpersonal linguistic efficiency.

The fact of the matter is, though, irregardless of the leverage gained by ignoring granularity as a long-pole item, commenter speed1961 did it, like, better than I myself.

Also, many thanks to commenter shwonline. Priceless!

Dealing with piracy?

The Reality-Based Community: International law query
l tend to agree with Eugene Volokh and Kenneth Anderson that the Somali piracy problem might represent an opportunity for the Obama Administration to assert international leadership. I don't understand the operational issues here, but if Google Earth can show street traffic it shouldn't be hard to spot pirates.

Apparently part of the problem is what to do with captured pirates, and in particular their potential asylum claims in whatever country catches and tries them.

That raises a question.

When a pirate ship is sunk by naval forces, is there an affirmative duty to rescue the crew? If not, then the question of whether the pirate crews have rights of asylum might not arise. If the duty exists and is triggered by the presence of ships capable of effecting the rescue, then the use of long-range air-to-surface or ship-to-ship missiles might make rescue infeasible.

Come on. Using a long-range weapon on the basis that it renders an otherwise obligatory rescue infeasible is no different, morally, from sailing away after letting them have it with a Vulcan cannon or something.

The idea of using an expensive missile to shield yourself from a supposed obligation to rescue, and possibly provide asylum to a fucking criminal, is absurd.

This is why we are collectively incapable of dealing with terrorists or making quick work of war. I am not in favor of ineffectual and half-assed anti-piracy policies, which is all we'll get with this kind of thinking.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Good for her!

The Associated Press: Dunwoody becomes first female four-star general

John Dean on danger from the Republicans

FindLaw's Writ - Dean: The Evidence Establishes, without Question, that Republican Rule Is Dangerous: Why It Is High Time to Fix This Situation, For the Good of the Nation:
Frankly, the fact that the pre-election polls are close - after eight years of authoritarian leadership from Bush and Cheney, and given its disastrous results - shows that many Americans either do not realize where a McCain/Palin presidency might take us, or they are happy to go there. Frankly, it scares the hell out of me, for there is only one way to deal with these conservative zealots: Keep them out of power.

That from Richard Nixon's White House Counsel. He ought to know.
The leading authority on right-wing authoritarianism, a man who devoted his career to developing hard empirical data about these people and their beliefs, is Robert Altemeyer. Altemeyer, a social scientist based in Canada, flushed out these typical character traits in decades of testing.

Altemeyer believes about 25 percent of the adult population in the United States is solidly authoritarian (with that group mostly composed of followers, and a small percentage of potential leaders). It is in these ranks of some 70 million that we find the core of the McCain/Palin supporters. They are people who are, in Altemeyer's words, are "so self-righteous, so ill-informed, and so dogmatic that nothing you can say or do will change their minds."

Altemeyer made his book, The Authoritarians, (which came to my attention a couple of years ago thanks to Pete Guither) freely available via the Internet. He's added a postscript on the 2008 election, which concludes
Almost nothing would give me greater pleasure than seeing the research on authoritarian personalities become totally irrelevant, now that we have seemingly put the nightmare behind us and begun anew. I’d much rather people get interested in my next book instead, which is about a far more pleasant subject: my studies of the sexual behavior of university students. But I’m afraid will remain worth people’s visiting for the next little while at least.

Palin says a woman on 2012 ticket would be good for GOP -

Palin says a woman on 2012 ticket would be good for GOP -

Not necessarily. It depends on the candidate.

In any event, the Republicans will pick a few more bible-type conservatives, loose more elections, and eventually come back a changed party. David Brooks sounds about right to me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Africa Palin

A Fake Expert Named Martin Eisenstadt and a Phony Think Tank Fool Bloggers and the Mainstream News Media -

It was among the juicier post-election recriminations: Fox News Channel quoted an unnamed McCain campaign figure as saying that Sarah Palin did not know that Africa was a continent.

That one was so outrageous that anyone should have seen through it. Hell, I did, and I almost wanted it to be true.

Maybe it will turn out that these guys performed a public service with their hoax. Even assholes serve a purpose, I guess.

But the truth was out for all to see long before the big-name take-downs. For months has identified Martin Eisenstadt as a hoax. When Mr. Stein was the victim, he blogged that “there was enough info on the Web that I should have sussed this thing out.”

And then there is William K. Wolfrum, a blogger who has played Javert to Eisenstadt’s Valjean, tracking the hoaxster across cyberspace and repeatedly debunking his claims. Mr. Gorlin and Mr. Mirvish praised his tenacity, adding that the news media could learn something from him.

“As if there isn’t enough misinformation on this election, it was shocking to see so much time wasted on things that didn’t exist,” Mr. Wolfrum said in an interview.

And how can we know that Mr. Wolfrum is real and not part of the hoax?

Long pause. “Yeah, that’s a tough one.”
I wonder how much of what I think it true, isn't? Now that I think about it, though, I've thought in terms of probabilities for a long time now. Things aren't true, just "probably true" or "almost certainly true", or false, and so on. Sometimes I actually place a number on something, and error bars.

Probabilities and error bars...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Sad episode"

BBC NEWS | Europe | Hitmen 'killed matadors' horses':

[owners of killed horses] hoped justice would at last be done

The justice that comes to my mind is that imposed by the Overlords, in one of my all-time favorite books, Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End.

I'm not European, and my own country commits its fair share of stupidities, but the fact that the EU subsidizes bullfighting is just bizarre.

Just as boxing, ultimate fighting championships, prostitution, drug use, and most other human activities objectionable to some should not be banned, bullfighting should not be banned.

Were I European, though, I'd be very angry about hefty subsidies to the bullfighting industry, especially in the guise of agricultural subsidies.

Here's an interesting video from the archives of the European Parliament's EP Live.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Write Or Die : Dr Wicked's Writing Lab

Hat tip to Lifehacker

Start test:

Well, this ought to be interesting.

The idea is to keep writing. Keep writing, and to do so, make use of automated prods. Keeping writing is one of the suggestions I received early on, but which can be tough to sustain. Write, write, write, and then go back later to cull, edit, sieve, harvest, and retrieve anything good that may have come out of the exercise.

This web app will prod you if you stop writing. There are several modes, such as gentle
ok I just hit the first prod. The screen went pink when I stopped wiring for something on the order of ten or 15 seconds. I think that the settings I went with will result in words beginning to disappear from the end if I stop for longer than that.

So far I've been writing to 6 and a half minutes, and I've written 143 words. I don't think I was very realistic in setting my target of 500 words in 10 minutes, but let's see what happens. [No, I was mistaken. The timer counts down, so I had 6 and a half minutes to go.]

I'm thinking I need to simply stop my tendency to backspace and correct things when I'm in this fast mode that I chose to try. Just go go go go go go go go, Het that's a way of chating the word count. I still can't resist the urget o hit the backspace key (did it twice, three times there) but now I'm at four minutes left and 232 words down.

This promises to be a useful device. I wonder if you can get it on a usb key, portable, to use at work, holy shit I waste a lot of time trying to compose stuff at work. maybe allocating five minutes to an email response would be useful. I think eventually you could retrain yourself to be much more productive a the keyboard

See, I'm gettig better already, as shown by the increas in errors. But who cares about errors when the object is to simply write down words for later polishing?

Logjam! Oh, shit, now what? Write! asshole! OK. Oh, man. take a break. See what the second prompt is. Stop now. Well, OK, the screen changed color starting at about 8 secnds, and went to red in one-second increments over about ten seconds. I didn't wait any longer to see what would happen [Apparently it starts making noise, but I don't have sound on this computer.] if I waited more. One minute to go, 389 words down.

Well, this has certainly been an interesting introduction to this web app. I think , no I know, I will be back to make further use of it, but I will be more realistic in my goal setting. 500 words in 10 minutes is pretty fucking intesne. Intense. 321

OK, the exercise is over. I got about 440 words down in ten minutes. Are they any good? Who cares. It was just a test. Could I go back and retrieve anything of value rom this forced stream of consciousness or whatever? maybe.

Congratulations Dr. Wicked! Very interesting. I'll be back.


PS: There's a "Done" button in the web app that I did not click at the end of the ten minutes, which accounts for the 15 minutes stated in the banner above, and I did not stop typing at the end of ten minutes, which accounts for the higher number of words. Next time I'll get it wright (get it?).

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Bali bombers buried in emotional ceremonies

Bali bombers buried in emotional ceremonies
| Reuters
Emotions ran high as thousands of people poured onto the streets for the funerals after the bodies were flown by helicopter to their home towns -- brothers Mukhlas and Amrozi to Tenggulun in East Java, and Samudra to Serang in West Java.

How stupid is it to facilitate this sort of thing? Flown by helicopter. Terrific. Brilliant!

Better that the announcement of impending execution be the last thing ever heard about crazy people like these. From firing squad to incinerator.

Saturday, November 08, 2008
Office of the President-Elect

Sounds good. "Change" looks good next to ".gov".


Suggestion form

President-Elect Obama and Vice President-Elect Biden have developed innovative approaches to challenge the status quo in Washington and to bring about the kind of change America needs.

The Obama Administration has a comprehensive and detailed agenda to carry out its policies. The principal priorities of the Obama Administration include: a plan to revive the economy, to fix our health care, education, and social security systems, to define a clear path to energy independence, to end the war in Iraq responsibly and finish our mission in Afghanistan, and to work with our allies to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, among many other domestic and foreign policy objectives.
OK, that's fine, but I'm disappointed to see "Science" seemingly tacked on as an afterthought. One of the big changes I want to see out of this Obama administration is a decent attitude towards science. It's probably reading too much into this to react badly to seeing "Science" alongside "Arts" and "Sportsmen" in the final, "Additional Issues" section, but it does not look good.

I didn't expect to see some of the particulars I'd have included, such as "Critical Thinking" in the "Education" section. Seeing Plug-In Hybrids referred to as "cars that can get up to 150 miles per gallon" in the "Energy and Environment" section is annoying. But, hey, it's a start.

I don't like the idea, in the "Energy & Environment" section, of using the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to cut prices, and I don't like the complete omission of nuclear energy. There's no way the country will even come close to reducing CO2 emissions by 80 percent by 2050 without including this atmospherically benign energy to the portfolio. Not while maintaining something approaching reasonable living standards, anyway.

Seeing two different drug-related issues in the "Civil Rights" section is somewhat encouraging. Eliminating sentencing disparities and expanding the use of drug courts are OK, as far as they go, but they are entirely insufficient. Among the items I did not expect to see was some mention of the fact that the ONDCP's mandate includes acting to prevent changes in the law (something that ought to be considered unconstitutional). Such a mandate hinders development of a more rational approach to the drugs problem than wasting untold billions of dollars per year to accomplish little except to serve the interests of the prison-cop complex, threaten liberty and corrupt us. I heard Candidate Obama state categorically that he'll end government programs that don't work. The War on Some Drugs clearly fits that category. We'll see.

Good luck, Mr. Obama, in your new job. So far I'm happy to have supported you. Keep it that way.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Moderates to blame for GOP losses, conservative leader says -

Moderates to blame for GOP losses, conservative leader says -

Oh, please.

There are conservatives and there are conservatives.

I can live with libertarian conservatives if they don't get too impractical, but fundie conservatives, the ones that overuse the word "family" and have a god on their side, are just annoying.

If their god is omnipotent, who are they to limit its ability to say different things to different people?

Friday, October 24, 2008

PAIN: Personal, Abrupt, Immoral and Now

Daniel Gilbert, Harvard psychologist, gave a talk at Pop!Tech on why the threat of global warming fails to get our attention while the threat of terrorism consumes us.

In a nutshell, there are four characteristics of a threat that human brains have evolved sensitivity towards. Terrorism presents all four of these characteristics, global warming none.

Human agency (Personal):
Terrorism has a human face, global warming doesn't.

Rapidity (Abrupt):
Humans are good at spotting fast not slow, relative not absolute, changes.

Moral sensitivity (Immoral):
Emotions are raised around, say, food (nausea) and sex (disgrace), but we're oblivious to atmospheric chemistry.

Immediacy (Now):
Terrorism can kill you right now, global warming can't. The brain responds to present, not future, threats.

Sounds plausible to me.

The talk is available at the following links:
The Psychology of Global Warming I (YouTube)
The Psychology of Global Warming II (YouTube)
The Psychology of Global Warming (view or download from Pop!Tech)


Op-Ed Contributor - From Beirut to 9/11 -
This piece by Robert McFarlane, former Middle East representative and national security advisor, concludes with
First, however, we must win in Afghanistan — truly the decisive battleground in this global struggle. Never has there been a greater need for experience and judgment in the White House. Unless our next president understands the complexity of the challenge as well as what it will take to succeed, and can lead his cabinet and our country in resolute execution of that strategy, we will lose this war.
Mr. McFarlane's piece appears to be a between-the-lines endorsement of the McCain-Palin ticket. But if it was, why didn't he just come out with it? Is he being luke-warm towards the Republican ticket? Given the focus on Afghanistan, could it be a tentative endorsement of Obama-Biden?

Nah... He's got to be a McCain-Palin backer, possibly holding his nose.

As for his piece, a couple of paragraphs from the end he writes, in the context of cabinet policy debates and leadership, that
What is intolerable, however, is irresolution.
In the context of this editorial, that passage is a bit ironic.

I'm sympathetic to McFarlane's point, though. He may wish the Reagan administration had taken a more resolute approach to the kidnapping of US officials in Lebanon. Who knows what the details were, but on the first occasion that Soviet officials were kidnapped in Lebanon, the Soviets responded resolutely (with a certain savagery), got their people back and did not have that problem again. I wonder if McFarlane urged that sort of resoluteness on the Reagan administration.

It seems to me that an Obama-Biden administration has more potential than a McCain-Palin administration to understand
the complexity of the challenge as well as what it will take to succeed, and [be able to lead the] cabinet and our country in resolute execution of that strategy.
Time will tell, but we're in for a wild ride irrespective of how the election turns out.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Well, it's about &$(*@*! time! Worldwide:
Colin Powell, a former Army general who served in three Republican administrations, declared his support for Barack Obama in an endorsement that may enhance the Democratic presidential nominee's standing to be commander in chief.

Now, where are are Shinseki and Sanchez? I don't recall hearing anything from Shinseki after he retired, but Sanchez pretty thoroughly blasted the administration. Where is he now?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Nasty Appeal to Ignorant Bigotry

I took the red-bordered snapshot below of an email I received today. I'd love to know the identity of the lowlife who composed this trash. I'll simply refer to him or her as Mr. Lowlife.

Mr. Lowlife had to know that the book Mr. Obama is carrying is a serious, scholarly work authored by a well-regarded secular individual. The book is a best seller, it is not anti-American and it is not "a Muslim's view."

I Googled the phrase, "The Post-American World' -- it's a Muslim's view", and wound up looking at this page from the Modesto Bee's forums, which shows, by the date on which it was posted, that Mr. Lowlife's slime has been floating around for some time.

The message on the Modesto Bee's forum contains a link to the picture, not the picture itself. The link is to The New Republic, but not to The New Republic's post in which the picture was used. Lowlife's link was directly to the picture, with no mention of the context provided by the accompanying post. 

Mr. Lowlife is a scumbag and a liar. He represents the worst aspects of America.

Mr. McCain could make some points, could display some leadership, by placing a Gallery of Shame prominently on his website under the banner, "DON'T DO THIS!" With this "Muslim's view" vomitus near the top of his Gallery of Shame, McCain could show that he was seriously trying to distance himself and his party from this sort of filthy tactic. He might actually swing some voters his way. But no.

Response to a forwarded e-mail

You may have received, or seen elsewhere, a letter from Joe Porter, of Champaign, Illinois, about Mr. McCain's qualifications, and Mr. Obama's lack of qualification, for the Presidency. The entire letter, as I received it, is reproduced below along with my comments.

(Forwards and email addresses deleted.)

I disagree.

A proper self thinker would not have included a reference to Obama's "Muslim background".

There are plenty of "self thinkers" who favor Obama over McCain.

An impassioned letter from a 'nobody'. But he gives his telephone number at the end.
No, he doesn't.

Sent: Monday, August 18, 2008 3:19 PM
Subject: FW: A letter from Ilinois

Dear Friends:

My name is Joe Porter. I live in Champaign, Illinois. I'm 46 years old, a born-again Christian, a husband, a father, a small business owner, a veteran, and a homeowner. I don't consider myself to be either conservative or liberal, and I vote for the person, not Republican or Democrat. I don't believe there are 'two Americas ' but that every person in this country can be whomever and whatever they want to be if they'll just work to get there and nowhere else on earth can they find such opportunities. I believe our government should help those who are legitimately downtrodden, and should always put the interests of America first.
Joe Porter sounds like a nice guy. We seem to have a lot in common. Husband, father, homeowner, veteran, neither conservative or liberal. Neither Republican or Democrat. Good stuff. Me too. But Mr. Porter doesn't believe there are 'two Americas'. He's mistaken. Look around you, self-thinkers!

The purpose of this message is that I'm concerned about the future of this great nation. I'm worried that the silent majority of honest, hard-working, tax-paying people in this country have been passive for too long. Most folks I know choose not to involve themselves in politics. They go about their daily lives, paying their bills, raising their kids, and doing what they can to maintain the good life. They vote and consider doing so to be a sacred trust. They shake their heads at the political pundits and so-called 'news', thinking that what they hear is always spun by whomever is reporting it. They can't understand how elected officials can regularly violate the public trust with pork barrel spending. They don't want government handouts. They want the government to protect them, not raise their taxes for more government programs.
I can go along with that.

We are in the unique position in this country of electing our leaders. It's a privilege to do so. I've never found a candidate in any election with whom I agreed on everything. I'll wager that most of us don't even agree with our families or spouses 100% of the time. So when I step into that voting booth, I always try to look at the big picture and cast my vote for the man or woman who is best qualified for the job. I've hired a lot of people in my lifetime, and essentially that's what an election is - a hiring process. Who has the credentials? Whom do I want working for me? Whom can I trust to do the job right?
I can go along with that, too, except that this year I'm looking more at the party than the individuals running for office.

I'm concerned that a growing number of voters in this country simply don't get it. They are caught up in a fervor they can't explain, and calling it 'change'.
'Change what?', I ask.
'Well, we're going to change America', they say.
'In what way?', I query.
'We want someone new and fresh in= the White House', they exclaim.
'So, someone who's not a politician?', I say.
'Uh, well, no, we just want a lot of stuff changed, so we're voting for Obama', they state.
'So the current system, the system of freedom and democracy that has enabled a man to grow up in this great country, get a fine education, raise incredible amounts of money and dominate the news, and win his party's nomination for the White House, that system's all wrong?'
'No, no, that part of the system's okay we just need a lot of change.'

And so it goes. 'Change we can believe in.'
If Mr. Porter says the dialog above characterizes his experiences, then I guess it does. What it does not do, though, is reduce the certainty that a lot of change is required on fronts as diverse as health care, foreign policy, energy policy, education, regulation, law enforcement, trade agreements, civil rights and on and on.

Quite frankly, I don't believe that vague proclamations of change hold any promise for me. In recent months, I've been asking virtually everyone I encounter how they're voting. I live in Illinois, so most folks tell me they're voting for Barack Obama. But no one can really tell me why only that he's going to change a lot of stuff 'Change, change, change.' I have yet to find one single person who can tell me distinctly and convincingly why this man is qualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful nation on earth other than the fact that he claims he's going to implement a lot of change.
I share Mr. Porter's apparent disdain for the phrase, "Change we can believe in," but pointing out that people in your circle can't verbalize specifics doesn't discredit the candidate.

We've all seen the emails about Obama's genealogy, his upbringing, his Muslim background, and his church affiliations. Let's ignore this for a moment. Put it all aside. Then ask yourself, 'What qualifies this man to be my president? That he's a brilliant orator and talks about change?'
Obama's genealogy is irrelevant unless you're a racist. That he turned out OK as a result of his particular upbrining is evident. Obama is a Christian, not a Muslim, and any reference to "his Muslim background" discredits the author. Obama's church affiliations are pretty tame and less objectionable than Mr. McCain's courting of the sort of "agents of intolerance" he rightly criticized in times past.


Friends, I'll be forthright with you I believe the American voters who are supporting Barack Obama don't have a clue what they're doing, as evidenced by the fact that not one of them - NOT ONE of them I've spoken to can spell out his qualifications. Not even the most liberal media can explain why he should be elected. Political experience? Negligible. Foreign relations? Non-existent. Achievements? Name one. Someone who wants to unite the country? If you haven't read his wife's thesis from Princeton, look it up on the web. This is who's lining up to be our next First Lady? The only thing I can glean from Obama's constant harping about change is that we're in for a lot of new taxes.
Not one can spell out Obama's qualifications? Come on now. Even if that assertion is true in Mr. Porter's experience, that the people Mr. Porter talks to can't satisfy him says nothing about the candidate.

Michelle Obama is an impressive woman, and she's going to make a fine First Lady.

For me, the choice is clear. I've looked carefully at the two leading applicants for the job, and I've made my choice.
So have I.

Here's a question - 'Where were you five and a half years ago? Around Christmas, 2002. You've had five or six birthdays in that time. My son has grown from a sixth grade child to a high school graduate. Five and a half years is a good chunk of time. About 2,000 days. 2,000 nights of sleep. 6,000 meals, give or take.'

John McCain spent that amount of time, from 1967 to 1973, in a North Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp.

When offered early release, he refused it. He considered this offer to be a public relations stunt by his captors, and insisted that those held longer than he should be released first. Did you get that part? He was offered his freedom, and he turned it down. A regimen of beatings and torture began.

Do you possess such strength of character? Locked in a filthy cell in a foreign country, would you turn down your own freedom in favor of your fellow man? I submit that's a quality of character that is rarely found, and for me, this singular act defines John McCain.
Senator McCain's military record, though admirable, does not constitute qualification for the Presidency. It's just one factor among many.

Unlike several presidential candidates in recent years whose military service is questionable or non-existent, you will not find anyone to denigrate the integrity and moral courage of this man. A graduate of Annapolis, during his Naval service he received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross. His own son is now serving in the Marine Corps in Iraq . Barack Obama is fond of saying 'We honor John McCain's service...BUT...', which to me is condescending and offensive - because what I hear is, 'Let's forget this man's sacrifice for his country, and his proven leadership abilities, and talk some more about change.'
No, it is not condescending, not offensive, to acknowledge Mr. McCain's military service then move on to any number of other issues that require attention. Hero worship is not a good way to pick a President.

I don't agree with John McCain on everything - but I am utterly convinced that he is qualified to be our next President, and I trust him to do what's right. I know in my heart that he has the best interests of our country in mind. He doesn't simply want to be President - he wants to lead America, and there's a huge difference. Factually, there is simply no comparison between the two candidates. A man of questionable background and motives who prattles on about change, can't hold a candle to a man who has devoted his life in public service to this nation, retiring from the Navy in 1981 and elected to the Senate in 1982.
Questionable background and motives? Like Obama's being a Muslim, right? Insinuation discredits the author.

Perhaps Obama's supporters are taking a stance between old and new. Maybe they don't care about McCain's service or his strength of character, or his unblemished qualifications to be President. Maybe 'likeability' is a higher priority for them than 'trust'. Being a prisoner of war is not what qualifies John McCain to be President of the United States of America - but his demonstrated leadership certainly DOES.
I appreciated Senator McCain's leadership in the Gang of 12 effort to break a deadlock over judicial nominees. I appreciated his initial stand on torture, but not so much the wafle that followed. I did not care at all for his involvement in the Keating business. I most certainly do not approve of his choice of running mate, and I don't like his social conservatism.

I don't trust a McCain administration to respect my civil rights. I expect a McCain administration to further the tendency to authoritarianism. I don't trust him to honor his debate pledge to end federal programs that don't work; rather, I'm confident that a McCain administration will, for example, stay the course in the War on Some Drugs in deference to the prison cop complex.

I don't trust him to make good judicial nominations. During the debate last night McCain said he would have no litmus test for federal judges, but then went on to say that a judge who thinks Roe was correctly decided wouldn't make the grade because he wouldn't be a strict constructionist.

I don't trust McCain when he protests that he is not George Bush; instead, I expect a McCain administration to be a continuation of the Bush administration.

Mr. McCain does not have my trust, nor that of the majority that will probably elect Mr. Obama in three weeks.

Dear friends, it is time for us to stand. It is time for thinking Americans to say, 'Enough.' It is time for people of all parties to stop following the party line. It is time for anyone who wants to keep America first, who wants the right man leading their nation, to start a dialogue with all their friends and neighbors and ask who they're voting for, and why.
Speaking of party line, I don't trust a McCain administration to do anything other than toe the Republican party line.

There's a lot of evil in this world. That should be readily apparent to all of us by now. And when faced with that evil as we are now, I want a man who knows the cost of war on his troops and on his citizens. I want a man who puts my family's interests before any foreign country.
I agreed with Mr. McCain at times during the last debate, particularly when part of his answer to the question, "What don't you know and how will you learn it?", was the simple truth that "Nobody knows what will happen."

Nobody knows what will happen, but I'm confident that an Obama administration will bring better qualifications to the office than a McCain administration.

I want a President who's qualified to lead.
Yes, that would be good.

I want my country back, and I'm voting for John McCain.
Phone: 760.434.1395
I want the Republicans out, and I'm voting for Senator Obama.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Republicans Ashamed of Their Republicanism?

I thought it was funny when, yesterday morning, two guys that looked vaguely familiar came to my door, introduced themselves as running for state office and gave me a campaign flier.

The thing that immediately jumped out at me was the lack of any indication of party affiliation. Nothing. Just their names and a couple of paragraphs ending with the URLs of their respective web sites. Between the few words one could discern Republicanism, but the total lack of any overt party declaration was interesting.

So I went to the computer to check out their respective web sites.

The first one was just an Apache HTTP server test page which is still there this morning.

The second guy's web site also didn't declare any affiliation to the Republican party. It wasn't until I looked at the endorsement from the local newspaper that Republican party affiliation became clear.

It so happens that Tivo had recorded a joint campaign commercial for these two gentlemen. I just watched it again carefully. Twice. Not a peep about the Republican party.

So I looked at the state ballot. It lists them both as Republicans.

So, the Republican party is such an embarrassment that their own candidates don't advertise their membership? I don't know how widespread this is, but it sure stuck out to me.

I'd have to give some credit to one of these guys. That he was effectively removed from office by the fundies must speak well of him in some respect. From what I've seen, I could even vote for him, except that I will vote a straight Democratic ticket this time around because the Republican party deserves to die.

Once again, I'm voting against, not for.

Sarah Palin: The view from Alaska | Salon

Sarah Palin: The view from Alaska | Salon:
What’s with the smug posturing, recently adopted fake Minnesota accent, and that gosh-darn-it hockey mom pitch? Maybe it plays well in Peoria (and presumably Duluth), but it’s all an act. “She’s definitely put on a new persona since she’s been a vice-presidential candidate,” says Kertulla, who has worked closely with Palin for the past 18 months. “I don’t even recognize her.”
Hat tip: The Misanthrope.

Palin has always struck me as a faker. No more genuine than those plants at the McCain rally that were so "I'm mad! I'm really mad!" and "I beg you!" Bullshit artists. Bad actors.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Understanding Sarah Palin: Or, God Is In The Wattles

Interesting piece.
These findings aren't carved in stone. A lot of the studies are correlational, the models are in their infancy, yadda yadda yadda. But the data are coming in thick and fast, and they point to a pretty plausible model:
  • Fear and stress result in loss of perceived control;
  • Loss of perceived control results in increased perception of nonexistent patterns (N&S again: "The tendency to detect agency in nature likely supplied the cognitive template that supports the pervasive belief in supernatural agents");
  • Those with right-wing political beliefs tend to scare more easily;
  • Authoritarian religious systems based on a snooping, surveillant God, with high membership costs and antipathy towards outsiders, are more cohesive, less invasible by cheaters, and longer-lived. They also tend to flourish in high-stress environments.
And there you have it. The Popular Power of Palin, explained. So the next question is

Now that we can explain the insanity, what are we going to do about it?

I don't know. My approach seems to be to try to embrace uncertainty.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


So I just watched the second debate between the Presidential contenders. I'm very happy that it didn't devolve into sniping about character, with references to "palling around" with terrorists and retorts about Keating. I suppose they must have agreed not to go there. Good.

Some of the questions were annoying, particularly one from the moderator, Mr. "Raucous Cacophony" Brokaw. I don't remember what it was right now, but, come on Tom.

Obama could have scored some unneeded points from me had he answered the "zen-like" question, What don't you know and how will you learn it? by starting out with a paraphrase of Mr. Rumsfeld's knowns, unknowns and unknown unknowns statement, the one that earned him so much unjust ridicule. Rumsfeld may have been a bit of an asshole, particularly towards the end, but it always annoyed me greatly to see scorn heaped on him for what was a perfectly logical statement. I wonder if Obama could have swayed some white, male fence sitters with that question by somehow working in a little defense of Rumsfeld's phrase, a bit about reaching across the aisle or something. Whatever...

Obama kind of irritated me with his insistence upon placing Osama bin Laden at the center of the terrorist question, as though killing him will be like decapitating a snake, which then dies.

McCain could have scored some needed points from me by including the useless War on Some Drugs among the things he'll be looking at in terms of cutting expenses. ONDCP apparently has a sunset clause he could decide to let go. Anti-drug resources would certainly go a long way if re-deployed for more constructive purposes.

I was glad when it was over. I felt I'd performed a civic duty in sitting through it. My vote did not change, largely because I'm furious with the Republicans, and certainly because of McCain's choice of running mate. Hockey Mom. Right. Winky dinky may I call you Joe pit bull shit artist. George Bush is an embarrassment, but I'd be mortified to have a President Palin (and it seems to be at least a 25% likelihood during the first term should the Republicans somehow win the election).

McCain's initial answer to the what don't you know question appealed to me. Nobody knows what will happen. Simple truth.

And that was that.

Raucous cacophony. I think I watched Tom Brokaw's first network piece, or one of his first, when he used that phrase in some report. He was a natural. Sounded perfect. The phrase was memorable and deliberate, and Brokaw delivered it as smoothly as can be. After the report, I think it was John Chancellor, Brokaw's senior on the broadcast, who immediately repeated the phrase with a smile of acknowledgment. He might as well have saluted Brokaw. Great television moment.

Damn, that's a long time ago!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Subprime Explained - Google Docs

Subprime Explained - Google Docs

Someone sent me this amusing but incomplete explanation of the subprime meltdown that's making the rounds.

I think it's incomplete because it lets politicians off the hook. In particular, it lets conservative Republican politicians off the hook. They are the ones with so much faith in the free market that they effectively gutted regulation and undid lessons learned as a result of the Great Depression it took World War II to get us out of.

I was going to add one more "fuck you" to the presentation, but what's the point?

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Palin: Obama Is ‘Palling Around With Terrorists’ - The Caucus Blog -

Palin: Obama Is ‘Palling Around With Terrorists’ - The Caucus Blog -
"... Our opponent though, is someone who sees America it seems as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country?”
Obama is palling around with terrorists, eh?


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

SPIEGEL ONLINE - Druckversion - The End of Arrogance: America Loses Its Dominant Economic Role - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

SPIEGEL ONLINE - Druckversion - The End of Arrogance: America Loses Its Dominant Economic Role - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International:
$596 trillion
Wow! Dat's a big nummer!
The triumphalism of the Bush years could easily be followed by the "I'll-sit-this-one-out" years of an Obama administration committed to a strict policy of belt-tightening. If that happens, both old and new Europe will have to demonstrate whether the European Union can rightfully claim to be on an equal footing with the United States.

In the past, the US government's solo efforts provided the Europeans with an all-too-comfortable excuse for simply doing nothing. But that excuse is no longer valid.
Maybe that'll be a good thing.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Op-Ed Contributor - The children of presidents and vice presidents shouldn’t be in combat. - Op-Ed -

Op-Ed Contributor - The children of presidents and vice presidents shouldn’t be in combat. - Op-Ed -
My inescapable conclusion, therefore, is that the assignment to Iraq or Afghanistan of a service member who is the son or daughter of a president or vice president does not make sense. No matter what the young person’s desires or career needs are, they are of little importance compared with ensuring that our leaders are able to stay focused on the important business of the nation — and not worrying about the fate of a child a world away. Personally, I would like to see someone of stature like Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arbitrarily reassign them. Too much is at stake.
I always thought it was stupid to allow such high-profile people to be placed in harm's way.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Seven Hundred Billion Dollars

The Dark Wraith Forums / Cadre:
"... Okay, where is Congress going to get that $700 billion?"
Dark Wraith Forums has become a regular stop on my rounds. I'm not exactly sure why that is, but this post reflects part of the reason in the quality of the author's writing.

When I first stumbled upon Dark Wraith Forums, I was distracted by little things like "Dark Wraith has spoken" and a couple of thematically related elements of the presentation. Very quickly, though, I came to interpret those simply as playful edges on a serious man's presentation. Gilding on a sword, engraving on a pistol.

The author, whoever he is, Dark Wraith, seems likely to be exactly what he claims to be, a long time, award winning teacher. His writing reflects talent and care. It's a pleasure to read.

Maybe the reason I like Dark Wraith Forums has to do with confirmation bias. There are plenty of other, well-known economists out there to whom I might have continued paying attention but did not. I still read Krugman, and when I see an article by Fred Banks I read it, but I generally regard economists as just another priesthood.

I wonder if Dark Wraith was one of the 500 economists polled for Scott Adams?

Naaa... Probably not.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

LEAP - Press Releases › Another successful battle in the War on Drugs?

LEAP - Press Releases › Another successful battle in the War on Drugs?
The police, judges, prosecutors, and prison wardens of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition understand that ending alcohol prohibition in 1933 put Al Capone and all his smuggling buddies out of business overnight. They were no longer on our streets killing each other to control that lucrative market, no longer killing police charged with fighting that useless war, no longer killing our children caught in crossfire and drive-by shootings.
What they said.

S. T. U. P. I. D.

CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time Blog Archive - Prominent Clinton backer and DNC member to endorse McCain � - Blogs from

I thought this was satire, what with the Lady de Rothschild calling Mr. Obama an elitist.

To my way of thinking, any woman (any person) who would switch from Obama-Biden to McCain-Palin on the basis that Mrs. Clinton isn't on the Democratic ticket is acting very stupidly.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Editorial - A Message From John McCain - Editorial -

Editorial - A Message From John McCain - Editorial -
The most disheartening aspect of a scurrilous Republican ad falsely accusing Barack Obama of promoting sex education for kindergarten children is its closing line: “I’m John McCain, and I approved this message.”
Win at any cost, eh?

I wonder if there's a way to impose refereeing on the electoral process in this country?


Who would be the referees? What could be the penalty for using lies to win elections? How could the process of refereeing be made timely enough to make a difference? How much of the Constitution would have to be amended in order to establish that lies are not free speech, that organizations are not persons? How subtle a lie could be dealt with effectively?

I'm afraid McCain/Palin may pull this off somehow. What I'm more afraid of is a repeat of 2000 and an appointed Presidency. People in the streets?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bridge to Nowhere?

As much as I dislike McCain and Palin and Stevens and earmarks, I'm somewhat put out by the epithet, "Bridge to Nowhere".

It's not a bridge to nowhere. It's a bridge to the airport.

It bothers me that it apparently took application of an underhanded epithet to kill an earmark that should never have been. On the other hand, could it have been otherwise?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Jolly Good Shew, Metal Masters!

The program at Crickett was Testament, Motorhead, Heaven and Hell, and finally, Judas Priest. We arrived too late for Testament, but the end of their set sounded OK from outside.

Here's the New Times' review of the event. I agree with the review, except that I was able to make out the words in Lemmy Kilmister's singing, and I didn't notice any mullets. The storm was cool, even if it did put 80 or so distribution circuits in the dark, making the drive home a bit interesting (what with pieces of trees blown up on the overpasses and into the tunnel, and what with my cable drop support having been ripped out of the side of my house, along with a bit of siding). Thanks for driving Chris!

Judas Priest's latest album, Nostradamus, is a big disappointment to me. My review is that Nostradamus is uninspired, overwrought and a purely commercial endeavor with way too much long, boring filler (sorry Priest, but come on). It's a good thing I didn't hear Nostradamus until after the tickets were on order, or I might have skipped the show. It would have been a real shame to miss this one. I think Halford is relying on electronics a bit, but what the hell, he sounded great. I can't quarrel with the New Times' reviewer's characterization of Halford's voice as "impeccable", matching the rest of the band.

The event hardly sucked at all! Motorhead was a fine surprise, what with my only recently having bought their two most recent albums (Kiss of Death and Motorizer) in order to familiarize myself with them. They clearly met the standards of Heaven and Hell and Priest, and I regret not having paid attention to them a long time ago. Motorhead is a welcome addition to my headphones.

Heaven and Hell were also well up to speed, as was to be expected. What else can I say?

We sat right behind the sound board, where it was entertaining to watch the guys playing the lights (until they had to cover up with plastic sheeting against rain from the storm whipping through the covered arena, that is). I think playing the lights would be a lot of fun.

I think the reason the New Times' reviewer couldn't make out Lemmy Kilmister's words, while I could, might have been because I'm trying to take care of what remains of my hearing. I experimented with a couple of different types of ear plugs, both alone and in conjunction with my hearing aids. Volume was deafening while I changed configurations, but aside from physical discomfort from the damned things, one of the types of ear plugs did a nice job for me.

I guess I'll just have to do this again some day.

Friday, August 29, 2008

mccain palin - Google Search

mccain palin - Google Search

I don't quite know what to make of McCain's choice for VP. Does it mean that:
  • McCain wants to lose the election? Dark Wraith would have McCain win for the same reason McCain might want to loose.
  • Rove has no influence with McCain? That would be a small plus.
  • McCain knows he's going to lose, and simply wants to score points with religious authoritarians?
  • McCain feels immortal?
  • McCain thinks he can win with the votes of religious authoritarians with some disaffected Hillary supporters?
This makes no sense to me, and further reduces the odds that I'd vote for a Republican ticket (which is not saying much).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bill Moyers' Bacevich Interview

This was an intensely interesting interview: Part 1, Part 2. That's a one-hour interview broken into two segments online. The transcript is here.

The book that forms the basis of the interview is The Limits of Power, by Andrew Bacevich, which has not yet arrived from Amazon.

Obama Biden

- Google News

Obama - Biden.

Who am I to pick Senator Obama's running mate, but I don't see Joe Biden as much of an agent of change.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Stayin' Alive: Why can't we talk about this?

Stayin' Alive: Why can't we talk about this?

What he said.

In the first place, why do you think that it's somehow a Christian belief that "human life begins at the moment of conception?" You certainly don't get that from Christ -- there is not one word about abortion anywhere in the Bible, New Testament or Old, no definition of human life, and no reference to the sanctity of fetuses or even, for that matter, the sanctity of human life in any form.
And it's not because they didn't know about abortion and contraception in those days.

Christians didn't start to argue that abortion was even sinful, let alone tantamount to murder, until the late 19th Century. So how did they make this discovery? Do you believe that it suddenly occurred to God that he'd forgotten to mention it while he happened to be incarnated almost two millennia earlier, so he quickly provided the Pope and some Evangelical preachers with a new revelation? Or, if it's merely a conclusion you come to based on your overall understanding of ethics, then why aren't other people free to come to different conclusions?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Kerry Candaele: Rick Warren Interviews Thomas Jefferson

Kerry Candaele: Rick Warren Interviews Thomas Jefferson

I never had gotten around to checking out the Huffington Post (aside from seeing the occasional piece here and there), so when the full feed was suggested by the Google Reader, I signed up. My first impressions were not all that good, what with an astrologer's column coming into view early on, along with some other junk I didn't care about. I hit the "mark all as read" button and moved on.

When I came home today there were some 160 new posts. I started to unsubscribe but thought I'd give it another shot. Scanning the post titles, I finally landed on this one: Rick Warren Interviews Thomas Jefferson.

Turns out I liked it a lot.

I don't know if Huffington Post links are permanent or not, so I'll cache the piece in comments.

Monday, August 18, 2008

RIP ONDCP September 30, 2010

One of the things that has bothered me the most about our War on Some Drugs has been the way the law requires the Office of National Drug Control Policy's Director (the Drug Czar) to take an active role in the prevention of certain changes to the law.

U.S. Code
Title 21 - Food and Drugs,
Chapter 22 - National Drug Control Policy,
Section 1703 - Appointment and duties of Director and Deputy Directors
(b) Responsibilities
The Director—
(12) shall ensure that no Federal funds appropriated to the Office of National Drug Control Policy shall be expended for any study or contract relating to the legalization (for a medical use or any other use) of a substance listed in schedule I of section 812 of this title and take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form) that—
(A) is listed in schedule I of section 812 of this title; and
(B) has not been approved for use for medical purposes by the Food and Drug Administration;
Once again, in plain English:

The Drug Czar will take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance (in any form).

This is just plain wrong. It's anti-democratic, oppressive and evil. It's an affront to liberty. It serves only to further buttress preservation of special interests, and is contrary to the common good.

Good thing there is also:

Section 1712 - Termination of Office of National Drug Control Policy
(a) In general
Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, effective on September 30, 2010, this chapter and the amendments made to this chapter are repealed.
(b) Exception
Subsection (a) of this section does not apply to section 713 or the amendments made by that section.

But wait, what's that exception in pararaph (b)? There is no section 713 in Title 21, Chapter 22 of the U. S. Code. Is this a typo? There's section 1713, which says it's OK to develop and spray herbicides, but that doesn't make much sense here. What's going on?

Google eventually pointed me to the Wyoming State Law Library, which says that
Section 713, referred to in subsec. (b), is section 713 of Pub. L. 105-277, div. C, title VII, Oct. 21, 1998, 112 Stat. 2681-693, which amended sections 5312 to 5314 of Title 5, Government Organization and Employees, section 1105 of Title 31, Money and Finance, and section 402 of Title 50, War and National Defense.
The whole of section 713 seems to be

(a) Title 5, United States Code.--Chapter 53 of title 5, United States Code, is amended--
(1) in section 5312, by adding at the end the following: ``Director of National Drug Control Policy.'';
(2) in section 5313, by adding at the end the following: ``Deputy Director of National Drug Control Policy.''; and
(3) in section 5314, by adding at the end the following: ``Deputy Director for Demand Reduction, Office of National Drug Control Policy.
``Deputy Director for Supply Reduction, Office of National Drug Control Policy.
``Deputy Director for State and Local Affairs, Office of National Drug Control Policy.''.
(b) National Security Act of 1947.--Section 101 of the National Security Act of 1947 (50 U.S.C. 402) is amended by redesignating subsection (f) as subsection (g) and inserting after subsection (e) the following:
``(f) The Director of National Drug Control Policy may, in the role of the Director as principal adviser to the National Security Council on national drug control policy, and subject to the direction of the President, attend and participate in meetings of the National Security Council.''.
(c) Submission of National Drug Control Program Budget With Annual Budget Request of President.--Section 1105(a) of title 31, United States Code, is amended by inserting after paragraph (25) the following:
``(26) a separate statement of the amount of appropriations requested for the Office of National Drug Control Policy and each program of the National Drug Control Program.''.

No wonder people hate lawyers and scoff at the law.

So, unless there's some provision hidden is (b) that makes (a) an empty nothing, it looks like there's a sunset clause on the Drug Czar's office.

Could it be that... Nah... Probably too much to hope for.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

BBC NEWS | Europe | Citroen 2CV: France's iconic car

BBC NEWS | Europe | Citroen 2CV: France's iconic car:
comically soft suspension that made it springy enough to bump along off road
No no no no no... Comical? Bump? I don't think the writer ever rode in a 2CV. As I recall, the suspension was wonderful, the same as in the DS. In the 2CV's I drove or rode in, the ride was amazingly smooth, and extremely well damped - not springy at all.

This was a great little car. I'd love to have one today.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ex-drugs policy director calls for legalisation | Politics | The Guardian

Ex-drugs policy director calls for legalisation | Politics | The Guardian:
He said that his views were widely held in the government but rarely expressed in public. 'I think what was truly depressing about my time in UKADCU was that the overwhelming majority of professionals I met, including those from the police, the health service, the government and voluntary sectors held the same view: the illegality of drugs causes far more problems for society and the individual than it solves. Yet publicly, all those intelligent, knowledgeable people were forced to repeat the nonsensical mantra that the government would be 'tough on drugs', even though they all knew the government's policy was actually causing harm.'
So, why is it, how is it, that all these people remain silent if they know better? Job security?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

BBC NEWS | Europe | Fear, anger, confusion in Tbilisi

BBC NEWS | Europe | Fear, anger, confusion in Tbilisi:
'People like his [Asshole In Charge Saakashvili's] strong statements and most are on his side now, even opposition supporters,' said Ana, a child psychologist.

'This is hell, it's a disaster, but we have to fight to the end because Russia must be taught a lesson that it cannot act like this in the 21st Century - even if we all have to die.'
Remind me not to send my child to this child psychologist. She's INSANE!
"Many people can't understand why the West failed to protect us," said Sandro, a student in Tbilisi.
Protect you? They should shoot you for being stupid, as in expecting such an outcome.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Human Overpopulation Crisis

The Human Overpopulation Crisis

Here is the web site that Prof. Eric Pianka put together for his freshman seminar on the human overpopulation crisis. Lots of good stuff here.

The only thing I would have liked to see in addition to what he's got there is a section on mental health - avoiding or dealing with despair and so on. I would think some in his audience of young people might be susceptible to an emotional crash of some sort when encouraged to think about how fucked we are.

I think my own experience over the years has been a grief process. I'm long past denial, still get angry at times, never did much bargaining, substituted a sort of nihilism for depression, and I've been deep into acceptance for quite a while.

This has been going on for many years in my case. It was a relatively gentle process compared to what I imagine some young people would experience when taken from youthful bliss to full-blown "we're fucked" over the course of a semester. My experience has been quite gentle compared to some of the accounts at Peak Oil Blues, a resource for people who've been shocked by the realization that peak oil is for real. (Prof. Pianka stops short of "we're fucked", but he's encouraging his students to think and some of them may come to the same conclusion I have.)

How to ease the pain? Dunno. Some people will manage OK on their own, but some might suffer mental health episodes. I'm no shrink, and I would not presume to instruct Prof. Pianka on anything, but there must be some way to help susceptible members of his young audience to be aware, and to deal with mental health issues should they arise. Introspection doesn't necessarily come naturally or progress usefully.

My two cents anyway.

One other thing... Maybe it's there in one form or another and I have missed it so far, but every student (every person) should assimilate the content of Prof. Albert Bartlett's lecture, "Arithmetic, Population and Energy".
[Never mind, the Google Video link to Prof. Bartlett's lecture is there. Good on Prof. Pianka.]