Tuesday, January 31, 2006

My (Sorta) Liveblog of the SOTU

Damn I wish Bush was a conservative. Much as I like the emphasis on new power technologies, I still cringe when he talks about federal funding for it. Nothing like involving the federal government in a project to slow it down.

6:50 (Pacific) Like we can hold off the impending crisis in the Middle East until 2025, Bush's proposed date of energy independence.

6:53 Uh oh, there's the "compassionate" word. He's listing off a lot of things that he claims is the result of positive impact on private character by government policy. Like I said, I wish he were conservative.

6:57 Evidently the President has his limits on the American advancement in science. Turns out that the pressure is encouraging adult stem cell research. Still, if the government were not involved, I think that social-con Bush would still seek to hamstring the work being done.

7:03 Platitude, platitude, blah, blah, blah

Pretty much what I thought, Bush is a politician.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Condescension At Work

That is just about the only way to describe it. Via this editorial, we get this wonderful little exchange:

In response, I began to read verbatim quotes form Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other Iranian rulers about their lethal intentions toward the U.S., their genocidal plans for Israel, their hostility toward “Anglo-Saxon civilization.”

Professor Amirahmadi objected that scholars and journalists must not take such remarks seriously. He suggested it was either unsophisticated or unfair of me (maybe both) to repeat such statements on the air.

By what measure does one use to judge whether a political leader can be judged by their words? This is saying that someone may not be taken seriously merely because... what? They use rhetoric that does not fit into the journalistic or academic paradigm? The decision to give credibility shows more of a high and mighty attitude on the part of the listener than any statement about the quality of the speaker..

If they can't be trusted to use words properly, then how can we trust them to have nuclear power? Even more, if they can not be trusted use words properly, how can we rely on the words they use in any negotiation?

Link via Castle Argghhh!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Gaming Hurricanes

Hurricane Pam was a storm that never hit land, yet should have taught lessons in preparation for Hurricane Katrina. Its projections included extensive flooding and massive casualties in New Orleans in as little as a Category 3 storm.

This part struck me:
A month before Katrina hit, state and federal officials working on the Pam exercise estimated that government plans to evacuate people from New Orleans were only 10 percent complete.

"If you think soup lines in the Depression were long, wait till you see lines" at collection points in New Orleans, Transportation Department regional emergency officer Don Day said at a July 29 briefing with federal and state authorities.
I assume that means that evacuation plans could only move ten percent of the people who need moving. One problem that I did not hear about was the lines at evacuation points prior to the storm hitting. What I want to know is to what degree the gamed evacuation plans were actually put into effect. For that matter, just how involved and aware of the results were the governments of New Orleans and Louisiana?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Don't Ask Where He Got His Numbers

How does one go about quantifying a bad day? Evidently, if you are an english health psychologist, you make up a laughable formula and try to pass it off as scientific.

On paper, the formula looks like this:

W + (D-d) x TQ
M x NA

The variables are (W)eather, (D)ebt, (d) monthly salary, (T)ime since Christmas, time since failure to (Q)uit a bad habit, low (M)otivational levels and (NA), the need to take action.

I know that time is money, but just what units do you use to measure Motivational levels and Need to take Action? Somehow, he determined that today was the worst day of the year. I might have been happier had I not read this article. Then I might have had some hope left for humanity.

This guy pulled the numbers either out of thin air, or out of someplace else less sanitary. Be sure to go wash your hands after reading the article.

Link via Dave Barry

Friday, January 20, 2006

Battlestar WTF

Did anybody else detect something of a real world political bent to tonights episode of Battlestar Galactica? The peace-with-the-Cylons movement, with the overtones that humanity deserved what they got, seems to be begging comparisons. The writers wouldn't be playing around like that, would they?

Non-Violence vs. the Shameless

From Winds of Change.NET: Our Darkening Sky: Iran and the War, we get this thought regarding nonviolent protest in Iran:
Let's get real. Whatever they may think of the mullahs, the Iranian people, and such civil society as they have built in the shadows, have no stomach to seriously oppose them. The mullahs have proven that they are quite willing to kill, with their Basij hitler youth corps and al-Qaeda mercenaries, as many Iranians as necessary. Nonviolent measures like the commendable struggle of decent people like Akbar Ganji or even Ayatollah Montazeri are, in this situation, useless.
The idea of Ghandi-like passive resistance makes a major assumption regarding those who are being protested against. Namely, that the protested possess a sense of shame. The British colonials put great store on honor, an honor that was shaken by attacking unarmed people. The people of the United States were moved to revulsion by the images of non-violent protesters having dogs sicced upon them and water cannons blasting them.

As near as anyone can tell, the Mullahs of Iran have no such shame. They answer to a 'higher' power, and any means to that end is good. Clearly, we are talking more about nails that stand up rather than squeaky wheels.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

On the Right Course

During the whole Terri Schiavo mess, I came down on the side of spousal rights. That is why the case of Haleigh Poutre, the eleven year-old abuse victim who was diagnosed as being in a vegetative state. Lacking any responsible care giver, Haleigh has become a ward of the state, and the state had decided to discontinue life support.

Suddenly, it was looking like Terri Schiavo all over again. What various conservative voices are missing in their rush to characterize the other side as ghouls is that when Haleigh has shown signs of recovery, the Department of Social Services has changed its plans and will continue life support.

The likelihood that the doctors are mistaken about the persistence of the vegetative state is much greater for a child than a similar diagnosis in an adult. At this point, everyone seems to be acting out of a position of hope. What more can anyone be asking for?    

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I Gotta Try This

You can guess that I am up for just about any type of game, particularly the potable variety. That's why I'd have to try The 24 Drinking Game.

  • Jack says “You have got to trust me”, take 1 shot– if the emphasis is on “got”, i.e. “You have GOT to trust me”, take an extra shot
  • Jack doesn’t have time to explain, take 1 shot
  • Jack doesn’t have time for this, take 1 shot
  • Jack says “You’ve got to do it”, take 1 shot– if this is followed by “and you’ve got to do it now,” take 2 more
  • Anyone points out something that is “against regulations”, take 1 shot
  • Anyone has got to understand what is at stake here, take 1 shot
  • Satellite coordinates are requested, take 1 shot– if they can’t get the coordinates, take another

The great thing about this game is the real time theme of the show. You would know exactly when you hit the floor. I'd give myself 10 minutes.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Wal-Mart Vineyards

Link via Balloon Juice.

I can just picture the racks of Wal-Mart Wine™ under the smiley face logo. I wonder: screw top or box? Gay Orbit offers a list of possible names, although I would add Pinot Greasyo.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Prison isn't Enough

I have to agree with John Cole on the matter of Clarence Ray Allen not being the case that anti death penalty activists wish to rally around. The man organized murders from behind bars. The man is an argument for the death penalty, no matter how old he is.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Yet More for the Storage Locker

Coverage of NSA's Echelon Program from the 1990's

More on Iran and the UN Security Council

Jeff Goldstein links to other posts regarding the politics of the UN taking action against the Iranian nuclear program. The big issues seem to be the threats of vetoes from Russia and China, both of whom are deeply invested in the Mullah regime.I would think that Russia might have a great deal to lose, perhaps as much as the US does, if Iran gets the bomb. IIRC, the Chechan Muslim separatists have been getting a good deal of support from Tehran. Certainly Moscow does not want those groups receiving a clandestine warhead. Remember, these are the same people that took an entire school hostage, a scene that resulted in the deaths of many children. Certainly someone could appeal to Russia's self interest.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Gross Chic

I'd think that there are better uses for latex than to make clothing and accessories that look like human skin.

As one of the commenters said:
I think I saw this in Silence of the Lambs.

Definition of an Empty Threat

Old Europe is finally showing some life in response to Iran's nuclear provocations. Sadly, all they are promising to do is to take the matter to the UN Security Council.

Color me not impressed. The path that is being proposed here is one that will give the mullahs years to perfect their processes and products. Even if the UN is able to shut down Iran's nuclear ambitions, there will still be more technical information floating around, adding to the library left by AQ Kahn.

Just another little bit to disturb one's sleep at night.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Philosophy is Where ID Belongs

Take a look at my blog and you can tell that I have no respect for Intelligent Design as a scientific theory. I do believe, however, that it makes for some very interesting philosophical discussion. Therefore, I am coming out against the latest ACLU action to remove ID from public school philosophy classes. Evidently the ACLU would have problems with any type of comparitive religion being taught in a public school. So much for not having an agenda beyond civil liberties.

Link via Castle Arrrgh!!

Monday, January 09, 2006

An ID Shot at Legitimacy

I went looking for answers to a question that occurred to me while I was outside smoking a cigar. Namely: What purpose do mass extinction events serve in an intelligently designed world?

Googling for answers proved fruitless. If any of you out there know of any, please leave a link in the comments.

What I did find was a site proposing that there are testable predictions in Intelligent Design that indicate that ID is standing up better than evolution. I’ll re-format the questions, predictions and observations here for easier reading.
Single transcendent beginning: Anti-Supernatural - will be refuted; Christian ID - evidence will increase; Observation - There is no evidence for more than one universe or one creation event.
This argument is characterizing the naturalistic position as presupposing the theory of a multitude of universes each of which possessing a unique beginning. Some cosmological theories propose that a new universe is created in a Big Bang with the collapse of a black hole. By definition, however, no information about the new universe can reach us because of the gravity of the black hole. Most scientists just give up when this theoretical limitation is reached, so this is debate in theory only.
Fine tuning: Anti-Supernatural - "design" will be shown to be an artifact, due to incomplete knowledge; Christian ID - more examples of extreme fine tuning will be found, indicating true design; Observation - Examples of fine tuning continue to increase. Some parameters designed to within a part in 10^120.
This is the classic argument between the Weak Anthropic Principle (If things weren’t so fine tuned we wouldn’t be here to wonder at the fine tuning) and the Strong Anthropic Principle (Things were fine tuned so that we could marvel at the fine tuning). Even if String Theory manages to show how higher dimensions of space result in the state of the physical constants, it would only change the stage for the debate. That debate would be about whether a designer designed the shape of the higher dimensions so that life as we know it could come to be.

Additionally, the physical constants have to be the way they are for life as we know it to occur. Perhaps life as we don’t know it exists under other constants, but that type of thinking is just pure philosophy.
Uniqueness of earth: Anti-Supernatural - many rocky planets with oceans and continents will be found; Christian ID - earth-like planets will be found to be rare or non-existent; Observation - No other rocky planets have been found. Most planets found are large gas giants orbiting very close to their stars.
Uh oh, science hasn’t found any other rocky planets, and therefore, they don’t exist. The most prolific method of finding planets has been to measure the wobble of a star under its planet’s gravity. That method only detects large planets orbiting close by the star. To make an analogy: we only have a net that catches fish larger than two feet long. Since no fish smaller than two feet are caught, it follows that no fish smaller than two feet exist. Science is limited to its tools for collecting information. To hold it to higher standards of information is arguing disingenuously.
Existence of life in the universe: Anti-Supernatural - life will be found to be abundant in our galaxy, since it is simply the properties of chemistry and physics; Christian ID - extraterrestrial life will be rare or non-existent and advanced life will be found only on earth; Observation - No other life found. SETI has been completely unsuccessful.
The plentitude of life off of earth is a wide-open debate in science, so the above characterization is a massive simplification. As for not finding life elsewhere, we haven’t had the capability of looking for life. To conflate all searches for life down to SETI is to limit the definition life solely to intelligent life capable of sending radio signals. Even then, and giving SETI a generous fifty years of operation, we have only listened to a fifty light year sphere around the earth. That is a mere pittance of the whole of the galaxy, much less the whole of the universe.
Prebiotic chemistry: Anti-Supernatural - a naturalistic scenario for the origin of all biochemical pathways and replicative molecules will be found; Christian ID - the universe was designed to support living systems, but their creation required ID by God; Observation - It is impossible to chemically produce many basic molecules required for any living system.
Note the change in tense between the prediction and the observation: will be found/is impossible. Seems like the goal posts are set to move into the parking lot.
Origin of Life: Anti-Supernatural - Life emerged late, during ideal environmental conditions. Life began as simple systems (pre-bacteria); Christian ID - Life emerged early under adverse conditions. Life has always been complex; Observation - Neither the biochemical nor replicative pathways have been described. In fact, many scientists think that they could not have arisen by any naturalistic means.
See above. Once again we have the “Science can’t, therefore science shall never” fallacy. Add in the “Many Scientists” believe something fallacy.
New designs in nature: Anti-Supernatural - Complex new designs would be rare and develop slowly whereas simple transitions would be common; Christian ID - No restriction on designs with the possibility that new designs would be created "overnight"; Observation - Contrary to the expectations of evolutionary theory, the fossil record is replete with complex transitions and new designs whereas simple transitions (intermediates) are rare.
Evolutionary theory would expect the opposite to be true and to be reflected in the fossil record.
Evidently there’s no love for the punctuated equilibrium theory of Stephen Jay Gould. Additionally, the prevalence of simple transitions has been grossly mischaracterized. As for emergence of complex new species appearing, see below.
Mass extinction events: Anti-Supernatural - Slow recovery; Christian ID - No restrictions on "recovery" period as new species are created; Observation - Evolution predicts slow recovery following extinctions and that those recoveries will be filled by the species surviving the extinction event. However, the fossil record indicates rapid recovery with completely different designs and species appearing within a period of tens of thousands of years or less.
Evolution would hardly predict slow recovery. Immediately after a mass extinction event would be a great time to be a mutant. When the playing field is wide open is when natural selection is at its weakest. Vast variation from small sets of species is to be expected, even in a time frame as short as ten thousand years.

In short, nothing but mischaracterizations and expectations that science either knows now or never shall know.

Very Good News from Sago

The extent to which Randy McCloy Jr., the sole survivor pulled from the Sago Mine explosion, had suffered brain damage due to his ordeal seems to be lessening with each day. He is moving extremities in response to pain and his brain stem appears intact.

Hopefully, his forebrain also remained in good health. If it has, then there is a good chance that it will be Randy that awakens, as opposed to a diminished version. His wife deserves that for her dedication through this ordeal.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

5 Days Must Be Some Sort of Record

If Pat Robertson had a New Year's Resolution not to say stupid things, then he has certainly blown it already.
On today's 700 Club, Rev. Pat Robertson blamed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharons recent stroke on God's "enmity against those who 'divide my land,'" an implicit reference to recent steps the Prime Minister has taken to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Pardon me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the return of the Jews to the Promised Land a sign of the coming Apocalypse? So if Israel is giving up land, doesn't that imply the Army of God is taking a slight stand down?

Just a thought: Since both Jews and Muslims worship the same God, granted in different ways, the land, from God's point of view, is not divided. It all belongs to his followers who are working toward His glory. At least, in theory.

Some Questions Are Better Than Others

I have always liked the saying that "Science is defined more by its questions and less by its answers." I have come to realize that that almost plays into the ID "Teach the Debate" argument. What is necessary is a way to determine what is a scientific question.

Skeptico, via the Skeptics Circle, answers the appeal to “science doesn’t know everything” with a call for evidence. A question needs a basis in what is already known. Much like you need to know the starting point of a journey to make decent directions, you need to start with knowledge so that any new discovery is of a piece with the rest of science. I don't see how that is so difficult.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Talk About an Irrational Player

The usual assumption when any type of game theory consideration occurs is that all of the players are acting rationally in their own best interests. That assumption seems to be falling apart when dealing with Iran and its President.
Scientists in Tehran are also shopping for parts for a ballistic missile capable of reaching Europe, with "import requests and acquisitions ... registered almost daily", the report seen by the Guardian concludes.
If these guys are looking for parts for balistic missiles, then they are clearly off their chump. The downside to a nuclear missile is that it leaves a clear return address. Tehran would be an irradiated parking lot shortly after launch.

There is no playing with people like this.

One more thing: I wonder where Ahmadinejad picked up this rhetoric:
Governments in the west and elsewhere have also been dismayed by recent pronouncements from the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has said that Holocaust denial is a "scientific debate" and that Israel should be "wiped off the map".
Teach the debate, y'all.

Via Protein Wisdom

Monday, January 02, 2006

I Am Not Alone!

Via Pajamas Media, I have found that I am not alone in my dislike of the phrase "person of interest". For the love of God, just call them a suspect, you're not fooling anyone.