Tortured Questions

June 24, 2008

I expect my government to be truthful, but I’ve got constructive knowledge that government can lie or spin.

Constructive knowledge is defined by lawyer Steve at Binjo Ditch as, “the type of knowledge that one using reasonable care or diligence should have, and therefore is attributed by law to a given person.” I’ve lived through the Clinton years and the Nixon years, so I have constructive knowledge that even the U.S. government can lie.

That hardly makes me a wild conspiracy theorist. I certainly have given the Bush admin the benefit of the doubt, for a number of reasons. First, my own constructive knowledge tells me that the left has exaggerated, trumped up and outright fabricated criticisms against Bush and the war. Most of these accusations of lying are easily disproved, as is the case with “Bush lied, people died” on WMDs. So constructive knowledge reassures me that many of those making the claims are hardly credible; they’re ranters, negative beings, BDR sufferers. Here’s a good case in point. And finally, Bush just always struck me as an admirable, Christian man who wouldn’t put up with lying. Call me naive; it’s just been my impression.

Constructive knowledge also tells me that members of al-Qaeda and other jihadists will lie, and indeed are encouraged to lie, about being tortured while being held captive by American forces. They’re trained to do it and the Koran encourages them to do it, and it’s important to keep that in mind as we proceed.

So, who’s lying in this case:

WASHINGTON (AP) – Medical examinations of former terrorism suspects held by the U.S. military at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, found evidence of torture and other abuse that resulted in serious injuries and mental disorders, according to a human rights group.

The story from last week — which of course I can’t risk clipping more from, given AP’s recent strict enforcement of its copyrights — goes on to describe what was found in medical examinations of 11 former Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib detainees. Most shocking are allegations (supported, according to the report, by evidence of burns on thumbs) of electric shock, and of sodomization. (The latter charge was not substantiated, as the accuser would not allow an inspection of his private parts.)

Is my country lying to me, to us, about its policies on torture? Or is the human rights group? Or are the former detainees?

Arguing for the latter two is the timing of the release of the report, just as the (Dem-dominated) Senate Armed Services Committee began looking into warnings from military lawyers to the Pentagon regarding the possible illegality of some interrogation measures. Timing like this is often a sign that a study’s been trumped up.

Arguing that interrogation techniques went beyond what we were told and what I personally would accept are the wear and tear caused by the endless stream of reports, and these latest reports, and my cognitive knowledge that the reported incidents at Abu Ghraib were, in fact, abominable.

Arguing against that is the nebulous qualities of the human rights group’s report. Some of these detainees have been out of our control for a number of years, and all of them were living lives before they were detained. There’s no way of knowing if their injuries occurred while under US control — if they occurred at all. And that guy wouldn’t pull down his pants to allow an examination.

Also on point is the fact that some of the alleged “tortures” are mere miscomforts suitable for the interrogation of enemy: sleep deprivation, stress positions, cold, heat, hunger. Sorry, but this is not about redefining torture; it’s about whether torture — being shocked or sodomized, for example — occurred.

Arguing for concern that it might just be true is the committee’s report on the lawyer’s findings. Binjo Ditch summarizes the whole deal:

When military lawyers warn the Pentagon that interrogation techniques they are looking into may be illegal, then the DOD should know that they need to tread carefully, and to look into the legality of the issue, rather than dive in with reckless disregard for the law.

To which Lindsey Graham replied (paraphrasing here for AP’s sake), “Bunk! It was just an irresponsible and shortsighted job by the lawyers!” I would normally say we have a he said/she said here, and that I’m biased to trust the government over the accusers, but Graham made an odd choice of words that’s troubling. Had he used “wrong and deliberate,” he would have communicated one thing (like the most recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran), but he chose “irresponsible and shortsighted,” which communicates something entirely different.

In the end, we must look for known facts, and that causes us to dismiss the human rights group’s report because it is just too unsubstantiated. That leaves the Pentagon lawyers, the interrogators and those being interrogated.

Without knowing the Pentagon lawyers, my constructive knowledge tells me staff at State and the CIA have gone out of their way to throw up challenges and embarrassments to the administration, so I can’t reasonably say the Pentagon staff would be any different. Their warnings appear to me to be part good and part reliant on a BDS definition of torture.

As for the interrogators, we rightfully don’t know much. If their techniques were common knowledge, the enemy could train themselves to deal with them. But we do know this: Every interrogator knows the rules; they’re clearly written. And every interrogator does not want to be the next Lynndie England, exposed, shamed and convicted.

That leaves the detainees, who constructive knowledge tells us have been trained to allege torture. In the end, this is the only rock-solid piece of evidence in the entire story. All we can say for certain out of all of this is that despite what the Pentagon lawyers said, despite what the interrogators have said, the only provable fact out of the whole pile is that detainees lie.

So, uncomfortable as this entire matter made me about what my country’s up to, it must remain just that: a discomfort, a confusing addition to my constructive knowledge. In the end, it changes nothing.

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Catching Fireballs

June 23, 2008

The U.N. press pool includes reporters from papers that don’t even bother pretending to be sources of objective news, which results in some interesting questions at the daily press briefing at Turtle Bay. When the subject turns to Israel, the questions can be quite enlightening, as seen during today’s UN press daily briefing:

Question: Does the Secretary-General subscribe to the point of view of Mr. ElBaradei that any threat by Israel to Iran could really bring about a fireball in the whole region?

Spokesperson: I don’t have any information about that. The Secretary-General is certainly aware of what Mr. ElBaradei has been saying, but I don’t have any specific statement to make at this point.

The spokesperson might want to consider this alternative response:

Fantasy Spokesperson: Please explain what you mean by “a fireball.” My understanding is that Iran has threatened to place nuclear fireballs throughout Israel so as to, in Mr. Ahmedinejad’s own words, wipe Israel off the map. Are you talking about those threatened fireballs or some other fireballs?

We continue with the Q&A from the briefing:

Question: Why is the Secretary-General always slow to react to any threats by Israel?

Spokesperson: Well, we don’t react to threats; there are so many of them all around the world and all over the planet. If we reacted to threats and not to actual, physical, proven danger, I think the Secretary-General would be busy 24 hours a day issuing statements.

You know, I think ol’ Spokesperson could have done better. How about:

Fantasy Spokesperson: It could be because then, in all fairness, he would have to respond to threats to Israel. Do you really want him to get into all the surrounding nations and entities that have called for the elimination of Israel’s right to exist? Would you like him to discuss the threat of the proposed genocide of the Israeli people?

OK now, last question! Let’s see if Spokesperson learned from the valued free coaching:

Question: But here you have a situation that is really escalating, especially on the vocal level. And the Middle East is not just any area. It is a very inflammable area, as we all know. Does that not concern Mr. Ban Ki-moon?

Spokesperson: It concerns him, definitely. It does concern him. Several times he has appealed for calm and for people to refrain from threats.

Will the need for coaching ever end?

Fantasy Spokesperson: It concerns him, definitely. It does concern him. He would particularly like to see the day when the inflammatory anti-Israel media decide to cool down the rhetoric, stop running every trumped-up Palestinian charge verbatim, and also stop ignoring Israel’s position in its entirety. But Mr. Ki-moon is a realist and he understand there’s about as much a chance of that as there is a free and fair election under Robert Mugabe or the free practice of religion in China.

I remain, as always, available to the U.N. staff to help them with their messaging and media training.

Hard Times, Courtesy Of The Greenies

June 23, 2008

Water that used to flow from California’s delta southward to irrigate the nation’s breadbasket fields of the San Joaquin Valley, and on to slake our thirsts in SoCal, now stays in the delta, thanks to the Center for Biological Depravity’s … uh, Diversity’s … lawsuits to protect the Delta smelt fish.

When stuff like this happens, it causes what is generally referred to as “results.” For starters, the California Department of Water allocation is now at 35 percent of normal, down from the routine 50 percent of normal, which is, as you probably guessed, half of what people would like to get.

And that has its own results. From the Bakersfield Californian:

Faced with too little rain and restricted pumping to protect an endangered fish, farmers and ranchers in and around Kern County are facing tough choices. In a typical year, 850,000 acres are irrigated, according to the Kern County Water Agency.

This year, about 45,000 of them will be idle at a cost of $46 million. In addition, 100,000 acres will be “underirrigated,” causing a $59 million loss.

“It’s a catastrophic crisis of historic proportions,” the agency’s general manager, Jim Beck, told the Kern County Board of Supervisors Tuesday before the board passed a resolution declaring “a potential disaster condition exists throughout Kern County.” …

Rancher Kenneth Twisselman is worried. He works on Temblor Ranch in western Kern County, raising cattle on 50,000 acres. …

Twisselman declined to divulge specific numbers, but said the drought forced the ranch to halve its herds from last year by slaughter or relocating them to pasture in Oregon or further north in the state.

“We have very few cattle, and very little grass,” he said. “And of course a lot of the corn has gone to ethanol, not feed lots.”

That translates as higher food costs, brought to you by the Greenies. Add it to the higher fuel costs, also brought to you by the Greenies (who are responsible for that portion of higher costs attributable to low domestic production and shortage of refining capacity), and higher housing costs (in CA between one-quarter and one-third of the cost of a home is its regulatory burden).

It seems a key platform of the Greenies is for us to have less green in our wallets … and on our fields.

Obama Wins Valued Italian Designer Endorsement

June 23, 2008

Flush with his recent endorsements from Hamas, Castro, Michael Moore, Galloway and (almost) Gaddafi, Barack Obama added the much sought after Donatella Versace kisses on the cheeks this weekend.

Versace dedicated her new men’s line to Obama saying (AP here, so I’ve got to be careful) she was inspired by Obama as a man who is relaxed and doesn’t have to flex his muscles in order to show off his power. (It is rumored that Donatella wanted to dedicate her 1979 line to Jimmy Carter.)

The highly prized endorsement is expected to cement for him the already super-glued gay vote. Now look for Obama to jettison the tie, wear jazzier shirts (or go with a silk T-shirt — always the symbol of the downtrodden), and cap it off with a structured jacket, perhaps with no lapel, and slim slacks made of a fabric with — and here comes my high-risk direct quote from AP — a “slick techno-fabric sheen.”

Poor John McCain, stuck in his wool suits, dress shirts and club ties! (And muscles that flex.)

hat-tip: memeorandum

Top Warmie Hansen Wants Nuremberg For Oil Execs

June 23, 2008

For 20 years, your tax dollars have been supporting NASA scientist and Warmie Grand Inquisitor extraordinaire James Hansen as he demands that no voice be raised against his global warming theories. He went too far long ago, and now he’s gone way, way too far. From the Guardian:

James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer. …

Speaking before Congress again, he will accuse the chief executive officers of companies such as ExxonMobil and Peabody Energy of being fully aware of the disinformation about climate change they are spreading.

In an interview with the Guardian he said: “When you are in that kind of position, as the CEO of one the primary players who have been putting out misinformation even via organisations that affect what gets into school textbooks, then I think that’s a crime.”

Note: Speaking of crap in school curricula, a British judge recently ruled that teachers there cannot show Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth unless additional materials are also handed out to counter nine significant errors presented as truth in the film.

Be that as it may, here’s Hansen’s solution to the fact that the world is not yet kowtowing to him and has not yet issued groovy priest robes to him:

  1. Witch hunts for any who stray from Warmie orthodoxy, perhaps followed by public floggings.
  2. Political campaigns to rid Congress of pesky skeptics, who might stand in the way of Warmie totalitarianism.
  3. Restrictions on lobbyists — but only skeptical lobbyists. Lobbyists for the environmental and green industries will be free to wander the halls of Congress, and to take Congressmen on junkets (with carbon credit offsets, of course).
  4. Banning, limiting and otherwise discouraging fossil-fueled power in order to give alternative energy “a chance to compete” — i.e., facilitating skyrocketing energy costs and the attendant increases in poverty and hardship.

You’re reading this today because Hansen’s PR/lobbying machine is all fired up. He’s got a new organization, 350.org, dedicated to getting CO2 levels below the hallowed 350 ppm. Here’s an undecipherable film clip of the ad 350 is running in today’s NYT, Financial Times and other major pubs:

Note the ominous interjection of the word “peaceably” in the ad — they want the 350 target hit through peaceable means. The theme is repeated in a celeb blurb from Bianca Jagger, whose only claims to fame I can see are (1) sleeping with a rock star and (2) getting a big divorce settlement:

“Climate change is not an isolated environmental issue. It touches every part of our lives: peace, security, human rights, poverty … blah, blah, blah”

What word did they chose to put first? Peace. Now that may be because they’re a bunch of lamebrains who think the war in Iraq is all about oil and not at all about Islamofascism, or more likely, it may be that they see the distinct possibility of Warmie War, with military ops, bloodshed and civilian casualties, all in the name of Hansen’s religion.

After all, they’re already calling for a Nuremberg trial, as if they’d already won the war.

Media Bias 2008

June 22, 2008

The campaign is officially on, and MSM coverage is officially favoring Obama. Media Bias 2008 will cover that bias all the way up to the election.

Items are listed from most recent to oldest; the numbering only reflects this and is not a ranking. Send Media Bias 2008 examples via “comments”‘ below, or to email2laer [@] yahoo [dot] com.

9. The End (Not Of Media Bias) Is Near!

In a truly awful piece by AP writers Alan Fram and Eileen Putnam titled Everything is Seemingly Spinning out of Control that wails about “wars without end” and “polar bears … adrift,” we see that all this ubber-angst is leading up to this:

The sense of helplessness is even reflected in this year’s presidential election. Each contender offers a sense of order — and hope. Republican John McCain promises an experienced hand in a frightening time. Democrat Barack Obama promises bright and shiny change, and his large crowds believe his exhortation, “Yes, we can.”

Do you get the sense that to AP, McCain is alone, without a supporter in sight, but the Mighty O is surrounded … as Christ was … by multitudes? McCain is for a mere “sense” of order, but large crowds believe Obama; he’s bright and shiny! Yes, we can! Yes we can bias this election!

8. 100 Years of Bias

Ever since John McCain said in January it was all right with him if troops stayed in Iraq for 100 years as long as they weren’t suffering casualties, the media have pandered to Dem operatives who equate this to “100 years of war.” Now it’s back with McCain’s statement that it’s “not important” when the troops come home.

For over-the-top misinterpretation of this statement look no further than that Pillar of Objectivity, MSNBC and Keith Olbermann. After giving the full quote to provide “full context,” Olbermann said:

And there is the context of what Sen. McCain said. Well, not quite, Senator.

The full context is that the Iraq you see, is a figment of your imagination. This is not a war about “honor and victory,” Sir. This is a war you, and the President you support and seek to succeed, conned this nation into.

Of course, Olbermann is a commentator and is welcome to dish out all the thick-headed bias he wants. Another way of saying that is this: Olbermann gets to say what others in the MSM want to say; otherwise they would see the correct context — that it’s good for American security to have troops overseas — and not report this story at all.

7. GOP Self-Loathing

Eagle-eyed reader Elvis Julip spotted this item in the SacBee:

“Three passions seem to be dominant so far this year, and all offer advantages
to Obama: ending the Iraq war, restoring a sense of economic security and
ousting the Republican Party from the White House.”

“Forgive me,” Elvis writes, “if I don’t quite believe that Republicans share that third passion on the level that the Sac Bee writer would have us believe.”

6. Cunning With Cunningham

The LA Times was looking for some quotes to fill in the blanks on a story they wanted to write: That John McCain was going to have trouble with conservatives in the critical swing state of Ohio. Rather than talk to, say the chair of the Ohio Republican party, they did this:

If McCain tried to gather his volunteers in Ohio, “you could meet in a phone booth,” said radio host Bill Cunningham, who attacks the Arizona senator regularly on his talk show. “There’s no sense in this part of Ohio that John McCain is a conservative or that his election would have a material benefit to conservatism.”

You remember Cunningham. He’s the former warm-up speaker for McCain who got drubbed by the candidate for his vicious attacks on Clinton and Obama. When McCain apologized to the two Dem candidates, Cunningham went ballistic in a temper tantrum worthy of a four year old:

A conservative radio talk-show host said that “he’s had it up to here” with Sen. John McCain after the GOP presidential candidate repudiated the commentator’s remarks about Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama at a campaign event.

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“John McCain threw me under a bus — under the ‘Straight Talk Express,’ ” Bill Cunningham told CNN on Tuesday, referring to McCain’s campaign bus. (CNN)

Want a negative story? Interview psycho-negative sources. It’s five months before the election and no one knows how Ohio will go — but it’s not too early for the LAT to try to do its part.

5. Anger vs. Inexperience

On the surface, the Washington Post appears objective on two big questions of the campaign: McCain’s age (29 hits on a WaPo content search) and Obama’s experience (26 hits). But numbers can be deceiving, particularly since the McCain search turned up this dog: McCain, A Matter of Temperment.

It ran on page A1, and the Internet version rambles on for five clicks of tales (some tall) of McCain’s “legendary” temper. McCain speechwriter Mark Salter said of the story, “In sum, this is one of the more shoddy examples of journalism I’ve ever encountered. But for the infamous [NYTimes] story, I’d say it was the worst smear job on McCain I’d ever seen.”

In contrast, WaPo offers up no A1 story on Obama’s inexperience. The 26 hits are mostly on op/ed pieces, on McCain’s statements about Obama, and WaPo blog posts. Even so, none rose higher than page A6.

4. Ignoring Rezko

Nexis, compiler extraordinaire of news stories in mostly major MSM outlets, conjured up 114 stories matching a “Rezko AND convicted” sort between the day the story broke, June 4, and the next day. I re-ran the sort for today’s date and there were … Ta Da! … six, count ’em six, stories.

Imagine if the GOP nominee had a longstanding relationship with a major contributor who had just been convicted of 16 felony counts of, basically, taking money from the poor for his purposes. Do you think there just might have been more than six stories a couple days later?

3. Global Bias

AP had to go out of its way — very far out of its way — to tell us Obama is a “great man.”

Indonesians were rooting for the man they consider to be a hometown hero. Obama lived in the predominantly Muslim nation from age 6 to 10 with his mother and Indonesian stepfather and was fondly remembered by former teachers and classmates.

“He was an average student, but very active,” said Widianto Hendro Cahyono, 48, who was in the same third-grade class as Obama at SDN Menteng elementary school in Jakarta. “He would play ball during recess until he was dripping with sweat.

“I never imagined he would become a great man.”

In Mexico City, hairdresser Susan Mendoza’s eyes lit up when she learned Obama had clinched the nomination.

“Bush was for the elite. Obama is of the people,” she said. (hat-tip: LGF)

Indonesia? Yeah, OK, we’ll give you that. But Mexico? AP apparently didn’t ask the Vietnamese community in Little Saigon, OC, what they think of McCain.

2. NYT Expose … Or Not

The NY Times didn’t have a problem running a smarmy and unprovable story about a supposed McCain affair with a lobbyist. No similar bag o’ crapola hit piece has run in the NYT.

Women swoon over Obama, but apparently there’s never been an allegation of drop-trou, no matter how specious, that has caught the NYT’s attention. This fact is not bias per se — but the fact that only one crummy secondary hit comes up up on an NYT search of “Obama William Ayres” sure is.

1. Votin’ Racist

An AP story that moved right after the announcement that Obama had sealed the deal compared the candidates in a biased way:

_Will McCain be able to overcome the country’s intense desire for change by separating himself from the unpopular Bush while sticking close on issues of war and taxes?

_Will Obama be able to overcome the country’s unsavory history of slavery andlingering bigotry that deeply divides the public to be elected the first black president?

Think about it: Don’t vote for McCain and you’re anti-Bush (a popular sentiment). Don’t vote for Obama and you’re a racist (a not-so-popular attribute).

Sunday Scan

June 22, 2008

No Fireworks In Gualala

A couple weeks back, I wrote about a particularly worrisome matter of the Cal. Coastal Commission issuing a cease and desist order against a 4th of July fireworks show planned in the No. Cal town of Gualala. It is, I think, the foothold the Coastal Commission has been seeking in a larger effort to stop these patriotic displays all along the California Coast.

How crazy is that? This crazy: One of the Gualala Gaeans said in a comment on the post that the damage of a 15 minute fireworks show would be permanent and unmitigatable. My gosh, if the earth were really that fragile, if would have dissolved into dust long ago.

The Gualala Patriots Day Committee (the good guys) appealed the decision and lost, so there will be no fireworks show this year. But the fight goes on; the judge merely failed to overturn the cease and desist; he did not rule on the underlaying matter. Says the Pacific Legal Foundation, which is representing the Patriots Day group:

“The legal fight goes on against this abuse of power by the California Coastal Commission. Although the fireworks won’t happen this year, our lawsuit goes forward. We’ll be litigating to bring the fireworks back in future years – and to have the courts instruct the Coastal Commission on the proper limits of its power.”

For a PLF summary on the case, click here.

The Inevitable In Zimbabwe

The despotic leaders of the multitude of thug-ocracies of the world can breathe a sigh of relief — the popular uprising against their role model hero, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, has been crushed.

This was a close one, with Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change actually winning a popular election. But Mugabe froze the election results and started a campaign of intimidation … which may be too faint a word. Remember what Mugabe’s supporters did to the wife of Patson Chipiro, a MDC regional leader?

They grabbed Mrs Chipiro and chopped off one of her hands and both her feet. Then they threw her into her hut, locked the door and threw a petrol bomb through the window. (BBC)

Preceding the MDC announcement it was not going to participate in the new election was this, also from BBC:

On Sunday, the MDC was due to stage a rally in Harare – the highlight of the campaign.

But supporters of Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF occupied the stadium venue and roads leading up to it.

Witnesses reported seeing hundreds of youths around the venue wielding sticks, some chanting slogans, and others circling the stadium crammed onto the backs of trucks.

Some set upon opposition activists, leaving a number badly injured, the MDC said.

It said African election monitors were also chased away from the rally site.

Sounds like exactly the sort of election Jimmy Carter would deem to be fair.

Another Reason To Vote For McCain

Buried deep in a WaPo story on hate groups and rising racism that’s very short on stats and figures and verrrry loooong on opinion, we find this:

“One person put it this way: Obama for president paves the way for David Duke as president,” said Duke, who ran for president in 1988, received less than 1 percent of the vote and has since spent much of his time in Europe. “This is finally going to make whites begin to realize it’s a necessity to stick up for their own heritage, and that’s going to make them turn to people like me. We’re the next logical step.”

Keep Duke in Europe! Vote McCain!

Alternative Energy Dreamin’

There’s another horse in the alternative energy race … but this one seems unlikely to generate even one horsepower. But what the heck! Don’t stop believin’, hold on to that feelin’:

Scientists from Europe’s Atomic Energy Commission, in Grenoble, France, have shown that vibrations from raindrops landing on a certain type of plastic can generate enough energy to operate some low-power wireless sensors, like battery-powered outdoor thermometers.

Leonardo diCaprio, take note!

Plenty Magazine offers an “In Depth” feature on the new technology, gushing about how it could be used to power climate sensing devices that now need batteries, so that we get a continuous flow of data to feed into the electricity sucking beasts we call computers.

Of course, rain drop power comes with that bane of all alternative energy: a dearth of economic viability. It takes Penty to the last paragraph to mention this tidbit: The material used to generate raindrop power costs $460 for 1 kilogram, and given the milliwatts produced, a bunch of kilograms will be required. Batteries, on the other hand, cost a buck.

Undaunted, the article ends:

Who knows, April showers may soon bring power.

Of course, not enough power to offset the solar power that’s not being generated due to the rain.

Very nice art: Josh Cochran

Extreme Climate Change

NOAA (named, perhaps, for that ark chap, since the oceans are going to flood us all) has released its newest climate change report, Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate. The resulting bad reporting can perhaps be best summarized by two quick cuts.

First, the pocket liner set got their first impression of the report from this Science Digest intro:

Among the major findings reported in this assessment are that droughts, heavy downpours, excessive heat, and intense hurricanes are likely to become more commonplace as humans continue to increase the atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

While the mainstream tuned into this Digg summary

New report highlights the likely changes in extreme weather and climate conditions under ongoing climate change.

… which in turn generated comments like:

Report: Turning on lamp will light up room.
Report: Pissing into wind will get you wet.
Report: Falling linked to failure to stand upright.

How many of these stories do we need to read before people start seeing this as completely obvious?!

Well, of course, it’s just not that obvious. ICECAP gives us this summary by Roger Pielke Jr., who just happens to believe in anthropogenic global warming:

The report contains several remarkable conclusions, that somehow did not seem to make it into the official press release. They include: over the long-term U.S. hurricane landfalls have been declining, nationwide there have been no long-term increases in drought, despite increases in some measures of precipitation, there have not been corresponding increases in peak streamflows, there have been no observed changes in the occurrence of tornadoes or thunderstorms, there have been no long-term increases in strong East Coast winter storms (ECWS), called Nor’easters, there are no long-term trends in either heat waves or cold spells, though there are trends within shorter time periods in the overall record.

Pshaw. What’s the fun in reporting boring ol’ stuff like that?

Seismic Mitigation As Art

This amazing piece of industrial art is actually the tuned mass damper at the top of Taipei 101, for now the planet’s tallest completed skyscraper.

The 728-ton steel ball is so massive it couldn’t be lifted into location; rather, it had to be assembled in a cavern carved out of four stories at the top of the tower. Why, you might well ask, put a 728-ton ball at the top of the building?

The simple answer is that Taipei 101 stands just 800 feet from an earthquake fault. More specific: The ball swings counter to motion caused by wind or earth movement, dampening sway.

Deputy Dog, an architecture blog, has a short story on the mass damper, but what really attracts is the video that was shot on May 12, when shocks from China’s massive earthquake hit the tower. Tourists in the building actually flocked up to the viewing area for the damper to see it in action.

Don’t you just love human ingenuity?

Can You Say “Semper Cheese?”


If you don’t understand this, says Blackfive, you’ve never met a Marine.

Memed

June 21, 2008

I‘ve been memed by Bookworm. Thankfully, she’s a best blog buddy, so I’ll forgive her her trespass. Here we go, starting with the rules of the game:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
5. Present an image of martial discord from whatever period or situation you’d like.

OK, and here are the seven facts about me:

  1. I was once almost shot in the head … by a fireplace. A bullet in a burning log went off, and buried itself in the wall just a few inches from my head.
  2. My head was once almost run over by a truck. I was sliding on my stomach across a two-lane tunnel at the time, my motorcycle skidding merrily along behind me. The truck’s rear wheels and my noggin missed each other by an inch or two.
  3. I was almost paralyzed by a water skiing accident. Water can be very hard if you hit it fast and wrong, and neck vertebrae can be cracked half-way through without paralyzing you.
  4. I was once in the rear seat of a small plane flying without a filed flight plan into La Guardia/NYC, while the pilot and his friend drank straight whiskey from a bottle. I drank a lot, too, figuring the more I drank, the less the pilot would be able to drink.
  5. When I was in kindergarten, I was almost smashed to pieces by a giant wave at Point Lobos near Carmel. My mother got a “bad feeling,” raced down the rock and grabbed me and my brother out of the way just before the wave hit.
  6. In college, in the middle of the night, in the middle of a Southern Indiana nowhere, my car skidded on ice, slid across the road, and up on a guardrail. We got out and looked — finding a deep ravine on the other side of the guardrail and a small part of the car’s underside hung up on the guardrail’s edge. We had seen no other cars on the road, but less than a minute later, a snow plow came by, pulled us off, and we went merrily on our way.
  7. I sometimes feel God is watching over me.

As to rules three and four, sorry — I don’t pass these things on.

Here’s my picture of martial discord (at first I read it as “marital discord” — boy am I relieved!)

Setting Up A Winning GOP Campaign Strategy

June 21, 2008

In his Saturday address, President Bush handed McCain the campaign theme most likely to keep the White House in Republican hands:

The fundamental problem behind high gas prices is that the supply of oil has not kept up with the rising demand across the world. One obvious solution is for America to increase our domestic oil production. So my Administration has repeatedly called on Congress to open access to new oil exploration here in the United States. Unfortunately, Democrats on Capitol Hill have rejected virtually every proposal. Now Americans are paying the price at the pump for this obstruction.

Delivering the Dem response to the prez’s radio address was Nick Rahall, chair of the Natural Resources Committee, which is the Senatorial power broker in this debate. His response:

This week, President Bush and his Republicans allies rallied behind the oil industry’s political agenda once again and advocated opening more of America’s federal land, including coastal areas, to drilling. This proposal will not bring the type of relief Americans deserve at the pump.

So we’re told that supply and demand for some mysterious reason won’t work with petroleum. Yet we’re told that this same supply and demand does work with the cornerstone of the Dems’ horse in the energy race, alternative fuels: We’ll increase supply of alternative fuels and the price of energy will drop.

Everything the enviros have said since gas prices started spiking — heck, everything they’ve ever said about energy pricing — ignores supply and demand in favor of government controls through incentives, punishments,cap and trade programs and government take-over. It’s not surprising since its basic socialism.

Also inherent in Rahall’s response is a problem over the definition of federal lands. He criticizes Bush for calling for “opening more” federal land (and seas) for resource development. The name of Rahall’s committee is “Resources,” a word the Dems and their green special interest supporters have come to define as “something that should not be touched,” but traditionally means “a source of supply, support or wealth.”

What exactly is this “America’s federal land” Rehall’s talking about? The Bureau of Land Management has under its jurisdiction 258 million surface acres and 700 million acres of subsurface mineral estates. The surface holdings represent about 13 percent of all the US, and BLM states its purpose as management first and conservation second. The land it manages represents just 40 percent of all land owned by the Federal government.

And it’s profitable stuff:

The public lands provide significant economic benefits to the Nation and to states and counties where these lands are located. Revenues generated from public lands make BLM one of the top revenue-generating agencies in the Federal government. In 2007, for instance, BLM’s onshore mineral leasing activities will generate an estimated $4.5 billion in receipts from royalties, bonuses, and rentals that are collected by the Minerals Management Service. Approximately half of these revenues will be returned to the States where the mineral leasing occurred.

These are the lands Bush — and most of the rest of us — are interested in opening up, which is the right thing to do, since it’s the federal land purposed for productivity. The other federally owned land includes military bases, prisons, nuke storage sites, Washington DC — and land owned and managed by the Department of Interior’s wildlife guys for the Dem definition of “natural resources” — critters and plants that just could not survive without our loving protection.

But to Rahall and the special interests he serves (Earth First!, the Center for Biological Depravity … oops, Diversity, etc.), all federal land should be treated as this subset of DOI-managed land: preserved for critters and none of it leased for resources. It doesn’t matter if the impact of production on land is large (as in oil shale) or small (as in drilling); no level of impact to Gaea is allowable.

You can’t blame Rahall and the Greenies for the current energy situation; you can only blame them for part of it. How much is a matter of debate; they would say the impact of their anti-petroleum, anti-nuclear position is minimal, and that it would be less then minimal if only we would get our hearts behind alternative energy.

But our hearts have been behind alternative energy since the gas shortages of the 1970s. Billions of dollars are going into alternative energy and we have little to show for it beyond higher food prices thanks to ethanol production.

McCain, like all savvy politicians is a proponent of alternative energy — after all he can read polls that say 98% (!) of usbelieve a goal of 25% alternative energy sources by 2025 is a good one. (Of course, the poll question didn’t attach a cost to that effort or say reaching the goal might cause some discomfort and displacement.) But he can also read the frustration of voters who are paying over $4 per gallon of gas, and seeing the price raise every week, so he changed his position on drilling. Albeit, not far enough, since he’s still stuck in a no position on ANWR, but unlike the Dems, he changed.

And the left pounced, with the Dem party strutting and crowing about McCain’s Offshore Drilling Flip-Flop: “McCain caves, once again, to the special interest.” We’ve been through the special interest allegation already, but in this particular case, the special interest isn’t the dreaded “Texas oil,” which was guilty of the great sin of helping make America the most powerful, wealthiest, comfortable nation on earth, it’s the people at the pump.

With “flip-flop,” the Dems are trying to paint McCain with a Kerry brush, but they fail. McCain is looking at an economic policy, seeing a changed global condition brought about by soaring demand and stifled production and refining capacity (see this lengthy PowerPoint for a good explanation of all that), and a futures market that’s betting that price increases will continue, and he simply deduced that changed circumstances support changed policy.

Kerry, on the other hand, was looking at an Iraq where nothing was changing — it was early in the war, instable and violent, and potentially could get worse or could get better. What was changing was not the situation, but the power and funding capacity of the anti-war faction of the Dem party. McCain saw a changed world and changed his policy. Kerry saw a changed Dem power elite and changed his.

It boils down to this: $4 gas gives the GOP a glimmer of hope in November because we have the right policy and, finally, a candidate who has signaled that he’s with us on that policy. The Dems have a candidate who appears not to care about the plight of the people; he’ll put the supposed plight of the polar bear first.

Congress, thanks to Bush’s challenge to open up more land for drilling, needs to deal with this. My guess: The Dems will go on August recess without acting. McCain better be putting on his pouncing shoes.

O, Where And Whence?

June 21, 2008

For those of you who missed the last five minutes of the Hugh Hewitt show today and therefore missed Joe Tarzana’s poem of the week … well, you missed a good one. Here it is:

You’ve often heard me sing this song

Everything you know is wrong

Those in darkness doused the light

Things you knew were wrong…are right

What goes up might not come down

And Vegas is a Temperance Town

So now when oil prices soar

Let’s not drill for anymore

Pelosi and her merry band

Repealed supply, reformed demand

Sure, new refineries might be nice

But they might melt the polar ice

No matter what we must be fair

To terrorist and polar bear

Now soldiers entering fire fights

Must first shout out Miranda Rights

Opponents routed from their forts

Can take their case to higher courts

Those same courts that have opined

That marriages be redefined

The eloquent Obama pleads

“To each according to his needs”

Echoing another’s screeds

And no one heeds, no one heeds

O, where for art thou; where and whence

Have you gone, sweet common sense?