Thursday, July 31, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Barr doesn't have a chance to win the election, so I'm not sure it's worth the effort. I'm also not really sure what I would ask him. He's been pretty up front about his Road to Damascus moment, and that he's done a 180 on a host of issues. Seems like it would just be the same question, over and over.Well, I have a question for Bob Barr:
Mr. Barr, in 2002 you voted to add a prescription-drug benefit to Medicare. Such a measure -- the entitlement state's largest expansion since the 1960s -- was passed in 2003, when you were no longer in Congress. John McCain voted against it. Do you regret your 2002 vote, and do you regret obfuscating the issue recently by stating "I wasn't even in Congress" when it passed?
On November 17, 1881, German Kaiser Wilhelm I issued an imperial decree stating that “those who are disabled from work by age and invalidity have a well-grounded claim to care from the state.” The driving force behind this pronouncement was Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who had unified Germany, unleashed victorious wars against Austria and France and was now intent on creating the world’s first broadly available pension system.
Throughout the 1880s, Bismarck pushed for the creation of government social programs. The German pension system, financed by mandatory contributions from employers and employees, was enacted in 1889. When critics contended that such measures were socialistic, Bismarck replied insouciantly: “Call it socialism or whatever you like. It is the same to me.”
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
First off, I have doubts as to how much public support for Mars exploration is based on hopes of finding "some civilization with which we could ally ourselves against the bad guys." In many years of writing and reading about space, I've never come across anybody stating such a hope. Second, I find it just sad (as Ross Perot might say) that Etzioni dismisses learning about the beginning of the universe as "bull." I can't tell if he thinks there is no prospect of learning anything about that through space technology (in which case he should take a look here) or if he thinks the subject is not worth caring about. Either way, it's a crude and ill-informed view.
NASA, and the people who live off of its grants and contracts, keep telling the media that we may find life on Mars. Many people understand this to mean some civilization with which we could ally ourselves against the bad guys. If NASA would disclose that it is looking for some organic material we would be better prepared to have an honest discussion about how much the nation should pay for such a possible discovery. The same holds for claims that we learn about the beginning of the universe and expand our humanity and other such bull.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Saturday, July 26, 2008
This is the excellent foppery of the world, that,
when we are sick in fortune,--often the surfeit
of our own behavior,--we make guilty of our
disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars: as
if we were villains by necessity; fools by
heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and
treachers, by spherical predominance; drunkards,
liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of
planetary influence; and all that we are evil in,
by a divine thrusting on: an admirable evasion
of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish
disposition to the charge of a star!
Friday, July 25, 2008
Second and more interestingly, at the time of the surge, there was zero political cost to McCain supporting the surge. He was running in a Republican primary, and not particularly well, so his ironclad support for troop escalation was largely seen by many Republican stalwarts (in a season where the only anti-war candidate was being treated like a leper) as one of the best things going for the guy, given his various transgressions on other counts.Here's a report on some polling from June 2007, as the surge troops moved in:
Thirty percent of Americans polled say they favor the war, the lowest level of support on record. Two-thirds are opposed.
Anti-war sentiment among Republican poll respondents has suddenly increased with 38 percent of Republicans now saying they oppose the war.
Moreover, 63 percent of Americans are ready to withdraw at least some troops from Iraq. Forty-two percent of Republicans agree.
Forty-two percent of Republicans were ready to withdraw some troops, which would suggest less than overwhelming support in the party for putting more troops in. And the trend at that time was toward more opposition. Not exactly zero political risk, it seems to me.
More on Reason here.
50 km above the surface, Venus has air pressure of approximately 1 bar and temperatures in the 0°C-50°C range, a quite comfortable environment for humans. Humans wouldn't require pressurized suits when outside, but it wouldn't quite be a shirtsleeves environment. We'd need air to breathe and protection from the sulfuric acid in the atmosphere.Unless the Venusians come here first.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I say use as much time as needed; it should be at least as epic as this.
The final set of episodes will be at least 11 hours long, and the series finale will occupy three of those hours. However, there’s a chance that the series finale could expand even more. The “Battlestar” series finale will definitely expand on DVD. Regardless of the length of the finale that airs on Sci Fi next year, an even longer cut will be released on DVD.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
Says Bob in Clemons, North Carolina: "We need to abolish the Federal Reserve and go back to the gold standard. Not just any gold though, I heard about this stuff, pure-strain gold that has been around since God created the universe. That's what we should base our currency around since it is so close to God."Sounds like a great idea. I recommend getting it directly from the source.
Indeed, to Ms. McArdle, the possibility of a Republican defeat holds a certain romantic appeal. “Younger people are kind of excited about being in the wilderness,” she said, evoking the pre-Reagan years when Republican thinkers plotted their revolution at nonprofit organizations and in bars instead of in the Executive Office Building and congressional majority offices. The longer you’re in power, the more you want to preserve it. “That’s where the Republicans are right now, and it’s demoralizing for think tankers.” Desperation has a way of focusing the mind. As Ms. McArdle said, “When they’re out of power, they have to think in a clearer way.”Well, maybe. It also often happens that being "in the wilderness" causes you to become deranged. The right during the Clinton years became angrier, less intellectual and more personal in its anti-Clinton loathing. The Democratic Party arguably became clearer-thinking toward the end of the Reagan-Bush years, such that Clinton in '92 had veered from some left-liberal orthodoxies. But I don't see much sign that Democrats today have gained intellectual benefits from White House exile during the G.W. years; a perusal of, say, Daily Kos reveals an active disdain for ideas other than tactical ones. And I don't have much optimism that Republicans in a President Obama era will necessarily come up with cogent, persuasive new analyses.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Of course, there's always the danger that people who pretend they'll launch a poetry magazine will launch something else. But it does make sense to try to divide enemies into those who are irreconciliable and those who are not.
Those due for release after serving short sentences for, say, fighting in Iraq undergo rehabilitation in a low-security holiday camp outside Riyadh. Other inmates have served time at Guantánamo Bay. The young men spend their days in religious discussions, art therapy, sports, vocational training and psychological assessments.
One of those who recently attended the course was 30-year-old Abdallah al-Sufyani, a lovelorn former university student from Taif. He decided to go to Iraq in 2003 after his secret girlfriend was made to marry another man. He wanted to die, but believed he would go to hell if he committed suicide. His answer was to fight the Americans and hope he would be killed as a martyr. But he survived and eventually returned home. “I did not find the truth in Iraq,” he says. “I found Muslims killing Muslims, Iraqis killing Iraqis.” Now, with the help of the Saudi government, he hopes to write a book and launch a poetry magazine.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
There are some funny mockumentary moments, including a look at what one producer says is a statue of Charles Darwin, and a dream scene involving a polar bear. Randy acts as the straight man, an uptight scientist who is clueless about how to communicate with a broad audience; in reality, he’s built a career lampooning scientists for being like that.
Interspersed with the mockumentary are actual interviews with scientists, including both some who are alarmed by global warming and others skeptical of such alarm. The interviewees field with good humor questions from the (ersatz) cameraman, as well as from Randy. Randy complains that the cameraman has ruined his interviews. In fact, based on what’s shown, nothing particularly striking emerges from the interviews. A couple of times, as the crew drives away from meetings, Randy says that one or another skeptic was “completely wrong” or some such, but he never says much about why.
Then, at the suggestion of one scientist, Randy and a crew member visit New Orleans and see the agonizingly slow pace of recovery from Hurricane Katrina. The point is supposed to be that we can expect much more of this sort of thing if global warming proceeds apace. (Randy notes that “the jury is still out” on whether the warming will intensify hurricanes, but says it’s widely agreed that warming will cause more disasters in general.) In any event, he’s putatively learned that you need to show how things affect real people and to speak in ways people can understand, rather than just boring them with data.
But does the Katrina aftermath tell us we should put more effort into preventing global warming? Or does it suggest resources should go into adapting to the effects of climate change? Indeed, one could look at New Orleans and say this is the sort of immediate problem that should draw more attention instead of a long-term problem like climate change. Randy notes briefly the idea that a wealthy society will be better able to deal with environmental impacts than a poor one, but seems to agree with one green activist that New Orleans, located in a wealthy nation, counters this notion. I’m not sure the footage of devastation in the city’s poorer neighborhoods really carries this meaning.
Sizzle is reasonably entertaining and interesting, and makes a valid point about the need for science popularization to be catchy (that point is also made in Flock of Dodos). But, I’m sorry to say, this movie doesn’t tell us all that much about global warming, and Randy’s formidable skills as a filmmaker could have been better employed to that end.
Monday, July 14, 2008
You've heard the dire warning; you've seen the detailed PowerPoint; you've even bought that light bulb with the swirls, but how about some real action?As Gregory Benford wrote over a decade ago, the standard environmentalist response to global warming is "Sinner abstain!" Maybe that's changing.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
This humanistic emphasis is evident also in his interviews with scientists about the animals they study. He asks a penguin scientist about penguins being gay or going crazy, and is fascinated at the possibility they show such human-like attributes. When another scientist describes the world of ocean microorganisms as harsh, Herzog links that to humanity as well. He asks if it was to get away from that world that humanity's ancestors left the ocean and evolved on land.
All in all, a very interesting work.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
There was a time when I would have rooted for the center-wonks. Now, though, I prefer something more radical, like competitive government. So I'd rather escape from current reality by reading history or by reading David Friedman than get immersed in today's discussions over policy and political coalition-building.This caught my interest because I've moved in precisely the opposite direction. There was a time, in my case roughly the late 1980s and early 90s, when I thought the key failings of conservatism and libertarianism were a willingness to engage in half-measures and "me-too"ism. Now I think their key failures are tendencies toward extremism and disdain for "current reality." As for "competitive government," I recommend the novel I'm reading, The Pillars of the Earth, with its narrative of 12th-century bloodshed committed by competing nobles.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Monday, July 7, 2008
We have come a long way since President Jefferson remarked, "I would sooner believe that two Yankee professors lied, than that stones fell from the sky," for now we know that mountains can indeed fall from the sky.But here is the Discovery Institute citing Thomas Jefferson as a defender of intelligent design, because he wrote this:
I hold (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the Universe, in it's parts general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of it's composition.Jefferson, however, didn't weigh in on Darwin's Origin of Species, because he had been dead 33 years when it was published.
In other news, no word yet on the Discovery Institute's position regarding Arthur Conan Doyle and fairies.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
When viewed from the rest of the galaxy, the edge of our solar system appears slightly dented as if a giant hand is pushing one edge of it inward, far-traveling NASA probes reveal.;-)
The picture was taken on our trip to Basque country of northern Spain, 2006. The trees were painted by local artist Agustín Ibarrola.