Yeah, I know, we're losing two wars at the moment, our rights are under constant threat, and we're dearly hoping that there will be a fair election in the United States, so we're a bit distracted. But, there are some other serious matters to consider...global climate change in particular.
The UK government report from today indicates that we have only a slight chance of avoiding dangerous levels of greenhouse gases in the near future. The economic benefit of dealing with this problem sooner rather than later are also detailed. The Brits are also looking to see why the environment isn't a big issue here at the moment. It's the wars. Let's also note the effect of global climate change on the severity of Atlantic hurricanes and the fact that the world is as hot as its been in 12 000 years.
The US weapon handouts! Our government has handed out 1/2 million weapons in Iraq without any accounting, recording of serial numbers, or anything! Hmmm...maybe the goal was chaos and enhancing the Iranian regime after all?
Dubya's new ranch of 98,000 acres in Paraguay. Okay, here is where it gets weird. Is that his little hiding spot to avoid prosecution for war crimes? Of does the 2.2 mile long runway (look on google earth) mean he's moving full-time into the cocaine exporting racket? Weirder still is the connection with the Moonies and their purchase of land in the same area. Okay, and then the Jenna connection? Too strange for words.
Karl Rove has promised it to the Republican faithful, there will be an October Surprise again this election cycle. As Osama Bin Laden hasn't missed a US election in years, that's certainly possible, either a new video or death "evidence" from Pakistan. Also of note is the amazing coincidence that the Saddam Hussein verdict (guilty) will be announced two days before the election. That gives a day for the talking heads and Dubya to be in the media. Any other brilliant ideas? Something new maybe? A terrorist attack against Norfolk, VA? Redmond, WA?
The full story is so much more complicated than what we thought was happening at the time. And that's even without Diebold in the picture.
I think we've all noticed that the Iraqi court has scheduled Hussein's "guilty and we sentence you to die" for November 5th. That way we'll have a full news day for Dubya the day before the election. Noted at the Nation online.
Okay, so the US, the UN, and the African states aren't going to do anything about the ongoing genocide. There are lots of petitions and the like floating around in the US, but those aren't going to accomplish anything. The army there has just suffered some defeats and is reactivating the Janjaweed Arab militias. So I have a horrible idea. If we're not going to intervene and help the people of Darfur, let's send arms and munitions instead.
"My house actually moved an inch off its foundations. I thought for sure it was going to be more of a disaster than it was," said Tom Greenwell, a coffee farmer in the Kona region, just down the coast from the quake's epicenter.
Most of the foreign policy and security folks in Washington can't answer correctly! Okay, we've got a problem here.
From a slashdot discussion:
>> A stranger trying to shove his ear-waxy headphones into me is a total turn off, by the way. And who's
>> to say they don't have a heroin-tipped needle in them or something worse (like AIDS).
> AIDS transmission via earwax? Please get off the net, Senator Frist.
You do him an injustice. this is a serious form of the disease, called hearing AIDS.
And CBGBs closed too! More on this later...
Probably the tidiest summary of the topic I've seen. Wild fennel a go-go.
"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." - Sinclair Lewis
Canadian troops battling 10 foot tall pot plants. In Afghanistan.
655,000 sounds like a lot, but at an exchange rate of 1,471 Iraqi Dinars per US Dollar, it's as if just 445 Americans had died. Or, put another way, since 1 Iraqi vote equals 0 American votes, it just doesn't matter at all to Dubya.
Putting the 2.5% of the Iraqi population lost into perspective..."The five boroughs of NYC, at 8 million people, contain 2.67% of the total US population."
George Bush's March 2003 speech. My favorite part?
"Many Iraqis can hear me tonight in a translated radio broadcast, and I have a message for them. If we must begin a military campaign, it will be directed against the lawless men who rule your country and not against you. As our coalition takes away their power, we will deliver the food and medicine you need. We will tear down the apparatus of terror and we will help you to build a new Iraq that is prosperous and free. In a free Iraq, there will be no more wars of aggression against your neighbors, no more poison factories, no more executions of dissidents, no more torture chambers and rape rooms. The tyrant will soon be gone. The day of your liberation is near. "
Rather than let get away with saying "Clinton did it," go ahead and read Jimmy Carter's description of the course of events.
Nearly 2/3 of a million people. This was calculated from comparing prewar and current death rates. The statistics are certainly complicated, but if this is true then about 2.5% of the population of Iraq has died as a result of the invasion and subsequent breakdown of all institutions.
It would be interesting to read through the full paper and try to evaluate it. Since the final number of 655 000 additional deaths comes from multiplying a small number (derived death rate) by a large number (the population of Iraq), relatively small errors in the former introduce large numbers of missed or excess deaths. Very similiar to estimates of Chernobyl casaulties---small number (chance of death) multiplied by large number (exposed people). In physics, these are called Fermi Problems referring to Enrico's habit of asking students the (easily estimatable) question of how many piano tuners there are in Chicago.
In any case, there's some evidence here that the total number of deaths is very high. Perhaps more than a factor of ten above the documented death totals. Though we do need to be careful since these are measuring different numbers. The 655k number is "how many people died in Iraq since the US invaded minus how many people would have died in Iraq if the death rate were unchanged" during the same time. The 50k number is "media reported deaths of civilians due to US, anti-US, or sectarian forces committing violent acts."
You can read the full report online. I just now realized that these are the same folks who prepared the Darfur analysis that US State Department uses to condemn the Sudanese regime. 200 000 deaths in Sudan. That's genocide according to most reasonable observers (and even the state department). What is 655 000 deaths in Iraq? It's a civil war at least.
By the way, you can see a rebuttal of supposed problems in the earlier cluster analysis story and continued here. It's worth noting that cluster sampling tends to UNDERestimate rare (like death) effects, not overestimate them. But read the article for yourself.
Tax breaks on paychecks, housing, books, and many more things. Just the housing provision shifts $1/2 billion dollars of taxes onto the rest of us. "The power of religious entities 'is at its apex.'"
Politics is probably a better category than physics and astronomy, alas. The new Bushie space policy was announced. It's all about Moon, Mars, beyond, and "access to space." Okay, that's maybe partly complaining about Chinese laser illumination of US satellites (look it up!) and maybe also about a nuclear rocket? What do you think, time to resurrect Project Rover/NERVA? Wait, here it is! Triton from my Dad's old employer, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft.
Additional scary bits? "The policy calls upon the Secretary of Defense to..." Yup, Rummy gets to decide that Astronauts go into space with the food they have, not the food they want. Or air.
Son of Star Wars. Hmmm...filthy lucre...
Interestingly, the yield is in considerable debate. With a quake magnitude of 4.2 (USGS), I can't derive a yield as low as the South Korean claim of 550-800 tons (TNT equivalent). Such a yield would either be a fizzle (if it has a sharp leading edge in time) or a hoax (using a LOT of chemical explosives). For magnitude 4.2, I get a yield of kilotons, though it depends a lot on geological conditions for which I don't know how to compensate or calculate.
Thumbing around the web, I find Jane's Defense Weekly agrees that it needs to be "2-12 kton" to match up with the 4.2 magnitude. The Russians 5-15 kton. Other reports come in with lower figures and possible fizzles.
We hear about the tortured and mutilated bodies of 30-60 Iraqi men being found each day after being abducted by rival militias. (And how the Shiite militias appear to be very fond of using power tools as torture devices.) What of Iraqi women? Many who dare to have jobs are murdered. Rape and kidnapping are endemic. And clerics are blessing "pleasure marriages" (rape) that had long been uncommon under Hussein's rule.
...have long had special rights. No property taxes, non-profit status even when they build theme-parks, salons, and bookstores. They aren't subject to OSHA, state child protection, EEO, or EPA guidelines. Recent iterations of the federal government have funnelled more money to the churches (under the banners of "stop abuse of xtians" and "faith-based initiatives) and given them additional right beyond those of individuals, non-profits (that are non-religious), and corporations.
The New York Times is running a series of articles on these issues. The first two have appeared already.
Why shouldn't churches pay property taxes? They receive fire protection, police protection, and are connected to city water, gas, and sewers where applicable. Here in Minneapolis, they run apartment buildings, a nightclub, and bookstores and repay nothing to their community. A sorry state of affairs.
I think the first of these that I saw were from Chechnya. Squads would video their ambushes and then the videos would appear on the web eventually. There were some of the attacks into the neighboring republics as well. I think there might have been some older Afghan-Russian ones as well.
Anyway, the NYT has an article about the proliferation of these videos onto youtube and other video sites. The most famous of the sniper videos (right hand photo on the NYT article) has a related story in the Army Times. The medic who was hit in the video (unharmed due to body armor) treats the wounded sniper a little while later.
Some of the discussion in abstracted in this New York Times article. Do note the t-shirts that the girls in the photo are wearing. Electrical outlets. There are corresponding electrical plug shirts for boys...
Anyway, I think this highlights again the oddity of indoctrinating children with theology. Christianity (or Islam or Hinduism or Jainism) is right because your parents happen to be members of that cult? And everyone else is wrong? I think the time will come (and not soon enough) when the concept of "catholic child" or "jewish child" can only have a cultural meaning. Theological indoctrination of the young by authority figures will come to be regarded as no more acceptable than other forms of child abuse.
Pretty darned bad. No one on the ground seems to disagree that the civil war is spiraling out of control. What will the US do? "Stay the course?" "Mission accomplished?"
$20 million for the victory in Afghanistan and Iraq festivities. Originally in this year's budget, moved to next year.
An excerpt from "Wealth of nations"
"Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality. For one very rich man, there must be at least five hundred of the poor, and the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many. [. . .] It is only under the shelter of the civil magistrate [the police] that the owner of that valuable property, which is acquired by the labor of many years, or perhaps of many successive generations, can sleep a single night in security."
"Gambling is a serious addiction that undermines the family, dashes dreams and frays the fabric of society," said Bill Frist, Senate Majority Leader.
"Except for Indian Casinos, thank you for your contributions. And state lotteries. Gotta keep those colored folks from learning math or we'll have to raise taxes! Oh, and Vegas Casinos, they donate money to the GOP also. And the stock markets of course, they aren't really gambling if someone tells you to get your money out of Enron before the news appears. And insurance? Nope, the insurance industry is one of the largest financial supporters of the Republican party," said Bill Frist, Senate Majority Leader, to himself.
Media consolidation continues. Who would have guessed?
"The Catholic Church shields pedophiles in its midst because it fears that the reputation of the Church as a whole would be damaged if it were generally known that there are any significant number of pedophile priests, because it doesn't want to raise questions about the wisdom of demanding that clerics (pretend to) be celibate, and because it's easy to forgive people who agree with you on the issues you think most important in life.
For parallel reasons, the Republican Party shields pedophiles in its midst: it fears that the reputation of the Party as a whole would be damaged if it became generally known and understood that Republicans are no more "moral" than any other politicians, it doesn't want to appear to be hypocritical on specific sexual issues of intense importance to its Bible-literalist base, and it finds it easy to forgive people who agree with its positions on the issues that are most important to its other members and its voters.
The tendency to forgive people who say what we want to hear usually extends into a belief that, after they are forgiven, they will somehow be inspired to stop engaging in the embarrassing and proscribed conduct that we have forgiven them for. So it probably was with the GOP leadership and Foley. But most evangelicals seem to know better: I remember seeing bumper stickers a few years back that said something like "I sin every day, but Jesus forgives me!" Maybe Foley should have one of those bumper stickers on his car, so that when GOP hypocrites condemn his behavior, he can remind them that he sins every day, but that Jesus forgives him every day so that he can go out with a fresh slate to sin again tomorrow in the exact same way."