Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What's Really Wrong with the Tea Baggers

I have finally figured out what I find so revolting and ridiculous about the Tea Baggers.

They aren't kids. 69% of them are between the ages of 30 and 64 years of age. In other words, they are of the generation who has again and again supported candidates like Reagan, GWH Bush, and GW Bush who have piled onto our national debt. They are the generation who has demanded something for nothing -- more Social Security, more Medicare, vastly more military spending, more roads, schools, and everything else -- while refusing to pay for any of it and, in fact, asking for tax cuts all along.

And NOW they are suddenly worried about the debt.

The debt which they created. Which they demanded. Which they voted for, time and time again, especially when they voted Republican.

From 1946 to today, Democratic presidents pushed the deficit up by 3.2 percent per year. Meanwhile, Republican presidents increased the budget deficit by 9.7 percent. In other words, since 1946, Republican presidents have outspent Democratic presidents by almost 3 to 1. -- Charles Delvalle

And now we're supposed to think they're pissed off about the deficit and big government? Where were they in the last 25 years when government was rapidly increasing and giving them all kinds of tax deductions (home mortgage interest?) that benefited them at the expense of their children and grandchildren.

They have been incredibly selfish for 25 years. NOW, all of a sudden, they're pissed about the debt? Please. What's worse, they don't really mean it, of course. Cut any of THEIR benefits and they'll be the first to squawk.

They are immense hypocrites. And I think the rest of the country sees that, even if they can't quite put their finger on it.

Marc Morano's Admission of his True Goal

Nothing yet discovered -- NOTHING -- can beat the methodology of science.We've seen this in the enormous, unprecedented quality of life improvements that have taken place since science and scientism was the dominent philosophy of the time. None of the framing people understand this, or can even come close.

And nor can Marc Morano. Though he likes to pretend he is presenting real science, the people who actually understand the subject know he is about the exact opposite. And today he finally reveals his true interest -- the ego of Marc Morano!

Of course, Morano is only "winning?" in the same sense that Paris Hilton is influencing people abotu what shoes to buy -- it will all disappear 6 months from now, when some other bimbo comes along.

No one who really knows anything about science believes anything Morano has to say, and his Drudge-like tactics are very easy to see through. But now, we know, Morano is mostly interested in only one thing -- Marc Morano. He's be against kittens if he thought it'd get him attention. And yes, like Joseph McCarthy, even kitten-haters can sometimes seize the spotlight.

Of course, it never lasts, and forever after they have to be known as Joseph McCarthy. It's a very ugly trade-off that very few are willing to make. But every once in a while, someone goes for it.

Today's BIG science story

Has CERN done a major PR job with the LHC or what? I mean, they produced a rap video about the accelerator, which struck the media right in the science-addled heart. Now, just because the accelerator is working (for the moment) the way it's supposed to, every outlet around the globe is covering this like it's a big deal. Early this morning when I couldn't sleep I heard it on BBC radio,then NPR, then read about it in the NY Times, and it was even on the Huffington Post. And they haven't even discovered anything yet!

And even if they do discover the Higgs boson, it will be kind of anticlimactic, after all this time. (The Higgs mechanism was proposed in 1964. It's (unfortunately) called the "God particle," which is why I think the media is really interested in it, but I bet you less than 1 in 10,000 people can explain its meaning.) Personally I hope they don't find it and SU(3) x SU(2) x U(1) [that is to say, QCD plus the theory of the weak force plus QED) has all be reexamined. THAT would be exciting.

In any case, today's major science story has nothing to do with CERN but with yesterday's court ruling from a US District Judge in New York City that two prominent breast cancer genes may not be patented. Science magazine covers it here.

It's always struck me as absurd, as it has many people, that anyone could patent a gene. It's like trying to patent hydrogen merely because you've shown how it can be produced in a laboratory. Science:
If the New York ruling is upheld on appeal, experts say, hundreds or even thousands of human gene patents could be put in limbo.
That would be a very good thing. Unfortunately, as a huge amount of money is at stake here this will probably eventually go to the Supreme Court, and today's corporate-favoring court would probably overrule this. In any case, here's the view of an expert:
Robert Cook-Deegan, an ethicist, historian, and expert on gene patenting at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, says that the New York ruling on the BRCA patents is a "bombshell." It could undercut certain gene patents that seek to claim DNA sequences themselves as an invention rather than as part of a process. He adds, however, that "it will take a while to figure out what it means." He notes that the judge's decision directly attacks part of the subtle legal reasoning behind such patents—the notion that intellectual property attaches only to "isolated" DNA sequence, which is a human invention, and not to the DNA in genes that's considered a product of nature (even though the sequences are identical).
We are in the bare beginnings of the genomic revolution, and the world a century from now (if it exists) will view our current state of knowledge as we do the Bohr atom. Unless patents on genes and other natural objects are rescinded, we're never going to get to the point where high school students are sequencing genomes in their bedrooms.

Deadwood quote

"Announcing your plans is a good way to hear God laugh."
-- Al Swearingen, Deadwood

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Kecksburg Incident

The Seattle Times article about Area 51 that I just linked to contains some very interesting information:
Noce says he was among those who flew to the crash site in a giant cargo plane loaded with several trucks. They loaded everything from the crash into the trucks.

The Seattle Times article He remembers that a local deputy had either witnessed the crash or had quickly arrived at the scene. There also was a family on a vacation car trip who had taken photos.

"We confiscated the camera, took the film out," says Noce. "We just said we worked for the government."

He says the deputy and the family were told not to talk to anybody about the crash, especially the press.
"We told them there would be dire consequences," Noce says. "You scared them."

As an added incentive, he says, the CIA arrived with a briefcase full of cash.

"I think it was like 25 grand apiece, for the sheriff and the family," says Noce.

Robarge says of cash payments to cover things up, "It was common practice."
When I was a kid growing up in Acme, Pennsylvania (yes, that was its real name, because it was atop a mountain. "Acme" means the highest point. It was called a "village," but really it was just a rural area. Here's a picture of the house I grew up in, though it has since been remodeled -- it no longer has our big front porch), I have firm memories of what I have since learned is a notable incident in the history of UFO research: The Kecksburg Incident.

I didn't remember the year, but now I know it was Dec 1965. I was almost 6 yrs old. However it happened (no doubt via phone calls, as was the "Internet" of that time -- neighbors were always calling neighbors back then, usually via 4-digit dialing (and even then we were on a party line for most of my youth) to find kids or dogs or sugar or something, unlike anything today where you probably barely even know the name of your next door neighbor), someone called us and said that something strange was going in in Kecksburg, a small town (barely a town) about 4 miles down the "Back Ridge" from us.

I don't remember a lot, but I do remember a sense of great excitement and my mother and I on our front porch looking northwest towards Kecksburg. It was towards evening. I remember red in the sky, but that might not have been unusual.

That's all I remember, but I've since asked more questions. My father was a member of the Acme volunteer Fire Department (one station, one small truck, about 300 yards up the hill from our house), and they were called down to the area. My mother has since told me that when he came back he told her they arrived and headed up towards the scene on a hill behind Kecksburg, but were stopped by army-types and were not allowed to proceed. He said something was taken out (I don't know how) under a brown tarp. From the accounts I've since read, that was very consistent with the experience of others.

My mother has always been into UFOs and psychic shit and Edgar Cayce and Art Bell, and she's sure a UFO landed in Kecksburg that night. I don't believe her, of course, but there still seems to be some interest/mystery about it all. There's a DVD about the event, but it seems very rare, and I've never been able to find or rent a copy.

Who knows? It was no doubt a crashed aircraft, or experimental something or other, though its "reported" odd shape (above) is suspicious. I probably ought to file a FOIA, although I suspect others have done so.

Who knows? It was the Cold War era, and people saw all kinds of things. The US govt was paranoid, as always.  It'd be beyond delightful if it was an alien spacecraft, but no doubt it was a wayward satellite or experimental aircraft.

Area 51 Finally Revealed

The nondisclosure period of many of the contractors who once worked at Area 51 in Nevada recently expired, so they are now free to talk about what was taking place there. Turns out it was all about spy planes and advanced aviation technologies.

Of course, that's what they would say, isn't it? It was probably in their contract all along.


{Although, as my friend Joe would say, Area 51 was really a volume and not an area. But "Volume 51" doesn't really seem as threatening.)

Classic Tea Party Response

Here's a classic quote from a Tea Party member who doesn't even seem to understand what he himself is saying:
Jeff McQueen, 50, began organizing Tea Party groups in Michigan and Ohio after losing his job in auto parts sales. “Being unemployed and having some time, I realized I just couldn’t sit on the couch anymore,” he said. “I had the time to get involved....”

He blames the government for his unemployment. “Government is absolutely responsible, not because of what they did recently with the car companies, but what they’ve done since the 1980s,” he said. “The government has allowed free trade and never set up any rules.”

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Putting the shoe on the other foot

Letter to the editor, Seattle Times, March 27:

Putting the shoe on the other foot

It’s the day after the invasion of Iraq. A mob of African-American protesters gathers outside of the entrance to the White House, screaming imprecations and waving American flags. Several hold signs accusing President George W. Bush of sending young black men to die for a family vendetta. A group of white Bush aides nervously makes its way through the crowd, hearing racial slurs and shouts of “killer” and “murderer.”

Democratic Party representatives and senators exhort the crowd into a greater frenzy.

Two Republican congressmen who support the war report that unknown people have hurled bricks through windows of their home offices. One receives death threats made against her and her family, including use of the word “assassinate.”

An anti-war leader releases the home address of a pro-war representative.

Someone cuts a propane line leading to the house, creating the danger of a massive explosion. Police reveal that the house is actually the family home of the brother of the representative. When contacted, the activist who supplied the address calls the episode “collateral damage.”

Does it take much to imagine the reaction of Republican politicians and the conservative media had any of this actually happened? Does it even require your imagination?

— Paul Goode, Redmond

Another Earth Hour

"Earth Hour" takes place today, that 0.01% of the year when the world pretends it wants to do something to prevent climate change by sitting around in the dark thinking about how boring and dangerous life would be if we did this all the time. Guilt assuaged, everyone then goes back to their normal, wasteful, carbon-driven lives for another year and puts the problem back at the bottom of the list.

Someday, perhaps, there will be an "Earth Eternity," but I doubt it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Just Some Stuff

Some interesting stuff I've come across:
  • Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, which I lived next to for 5 years, just had its earliest "Ice Out" in the records, which go back to1888. Not only that, it shattered the old record by 4 days.
  • Snowpack in the Cascade Mountains in Oregon is 50% - 85% of normal, and what snow there is has a water content less than normal. This is a big deal for Oregon and its agriculture, as this snowpack is where they get much of their water. The state agricultural department says it's due to El Nino.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Boehner's Tan

John Boehner's tan is proof that global warming is real.

-- caller to the Mika and Joe show, Nov 2009

Does Eating Meat Contribute to Global Warming?

Does eating meat contribute to climate change -- at least, more than existing as a human being and eating vegetarian?

Some studies have said as much, and some environmentalists have jumped on this and declared that we should all give up meat.

There are good reasons not to eat meat, but a new study by Frank Mitloehner of U California at Davis (which is, incidentally, one of the best agricultural sciences schools in the world) indicates that meat production doesn't contribute nearly as much to the atmosphere's GHG content as originally thought.
Dr Frank Mitloehner, from the University of California at Davis (UCD), said meat and milk production generates less greenhouse gas than most environmentalists claim and that the emissions figures were calculated differently to the transport figures, resulting in an “apples-and-oranges analogy that truly confused the issue”.
The meat figure had been reached by adding all greenhouse-gas emissions associated with meat production, including fertiliser production, land clearance, methane emissions and vehicle use on farms, whereas the transport figure had only included the burning of fossil fuels
Naturally, in the world of the Climate Cling-ons, this represents a vast conspiracy by wimpy vegetarian liberals to force their morals on the world, a huge error by sympathetic scientists who conspired to hide data and manipulate numbers to get the conclusion they want. (The label is "Cow-gate," if you're trying to keep up with the Clingons.)

It can't simply be that a new study found a different result, or used superior methods, learned via past studies and analyses, to reach a different conclusion, or that an earlier study was wrong. After all, every scientific paper published is supposed to be a holy writ, completely accurate in all assumptions and conclusions without the possibility of revision or further analysis or more thinking.

That's what they want you to believe.

It is, of course, a completely false position that shows a lack of any understanding of scientific history.

By these standards Niels Bohr was a criminal because his model of the hydrogen atom was proved wrong. Paul Dirac was a fraud because his equation for the electron predicted a magnetic moment of 2 and not the value we know today of g = 2.00231930436. He should have been strung up and fed to wolves!

Of course, Bohr and Dirac had some of the most important intellectual achievements in history, and none of the Clingons has accomplished a millionth of what they did. But because a result is not completely and totally accurate to all degrees the very first time, we must assume a conspiracy.

The amazing thing is that this doesn't seem to embarrass the Clingons.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Is Climate Change Legislation Next?

In the immediate wake of Obama and the Democrat's impressive passage of health care reform, some people are asking if he/they can now do the same with climate change legislation, whether cap-n-trade or something else.

I don't know, of course. But I doubt it.

It just doesn't seem that the time is right. Obama pushed many Democrats to get health care reform passed, and they are probably now worried about their reelection prospects this November. They made a sacrifice for him, and two such sacrifices in a year is probably too much to ask. (And certainly too much if the Democrats don't retain Congressional majorities in the fall.)

But more, sadly, perhaps even tragically, the public isn't ready for it either. Despite Chris Mooney's prediction that global warming was to have been a major campaign issue since, what, 2000, it never is. In fact, it now polls dead last, even among environmental issues.

If American's aren't concerned that some of their fellow citizens must line up in fields to get health care dispensed under tents, something you'd expect to see in the third world, they are hardly going to get too exercised about the fate of the seventh generation -- or even their grandchildren. (I mean, look at the debt they've saddled them with.) If a Texan representative won't support health care reform when, literally, 1/4th of his constituents have no health insurance -- well, these are clearly heartless, selfish motherfuckers in a vastly different galaxy than the rest of us.

Too many Americans are now being lead around the nose by these types, made fearful and selfish and mean-spirited. The future of the human race hardly concerns them -- what they really want is better cell phone reception and ever more cheap shit from China.

Even France today announced they are giving up on a carbon tax.

The time isn't right -- perhaps some reaction to the manufactured "Climategate scandal" -- but it might be coming. The last few months have been quite warm, and there really isn't a strong El Nino right now. Skeptics have already backed down from their "global cooling" claims they were making everywhere a year ago -- it's just not talk you hear anymore. A big heat wave or two and people might be thinking very differently in a year.

Anyway, we (the US) or the world lacks anything like the stones to really tackle this problem on a realistic level -- which means a totally carbon-free world. I doubt that will ever happen, and if it does it will be far, far too late -- as are most stop-gap measures humans try to put in placem long after the damage has been done.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Now This is Funny

At least someone left here still has a sense of humor:

Tea Baggers are Utter Idiots

As someone wrote somewhere, the best way to get rid of the Tea Bag Party is just to let them talk:

Here is an utterly cruel and despicable display that shows why the Tea Bag Party hasn't the slightest chance of success and will now slink into oblivion -- mocking a man with (purportedly) Parkinson's disease who is concerned about health care:

Regardless of the details of an issue, people can always tell class when they see it -- and know its absence when it isn't there.

Spot On

To my knowledge, Mr. McIntyre – who purports to have considerable statistical expertise – has failed to “audit” the Douglass et al. paper, which contained serious statistical errors.
-- Ben Santer, as quoted on NeverEnding Audit, (a different kind of blog). 

Health Case Reform: Who's Left Out?

Projections are that the health care bill will cover 32M of those who currently lack insurance. But there are about 48M uninsured Americans. So who is left out, and how is this fair?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I have been on medical leave (such as it is for a freelancer) since late January while having surgery for spinal stenosis (compression of the spinal cord).

In late January I noticed a little strangeness in my walking, just that my legs weren't quite responding correctly, and I thought I might be having a problem with my hips. But over the next week it got worse, much worse, to where I was walking peg-legged and lurching around like Frankenstein. My arms stopped working normally, and my fingers, too -- I wasn't able to hold a pen or write, or even type. I lost my coordination and was falling down a few times a day and ordinary activities like just getting dressed took five times longer than normal. This all happened in the course of about two weeks and was difficult to grasp.

I went to the ER more than once, and they thought I might have a vitamin deficiency. Finally they admitted me and found, via an MRI, that my spinal column was being compressed in my cervical region from bone spurs growing there, and that I had a congentially small spinal canal to begin with.

I saw a neurosurgeon the next day and we talked all about this, and then he called me at home that night to say I needed to come into the hospital tomorrow or I was at risk of paralysis from the neck down. The next morning I was trying to figure out what to do with my cats and finances and some deadlines, and the hospital called me and said drop *everything* you're doing right now and call an ambulance or the state police and come in immediately. That really shook me up. I drove (slowly) to the hospital, and had surgery ("a laminectomy") the next morning.

I spent a week in the hospital and then a week in a rehabilitation home, and am back home now in a big neck brace that looks a bit like a football helmet facemask, but healing. My motor functions are back to about 75% of normal, and I can type again, and write (slowly), and walk (slowly but mostly smoothly) and am getting a little better every day. The biggest problem is I can't sit up for longer than about 1/2 hour before my neck complains, and my fingertips still lack some sensitivy, which is a bigger problem than you'd think. And I can't drive for two more months. But I'm no longer on the Big pain pills.

Everything happened so fast that I almost feel like I was a detached observer of my own life.

I'm very thankful I found my neurosurgon (Dr. Joseph Sherrill at Pacific Surgery at Legacy Emmanuel Hospital in Portland) when I did. He is the best doctor I've ever encountered in my life -- smart, kind, caring, thorough, patient, direct, understanding, excellent, and a dapper dresser as well. And everyone else at Emmanuel was extremely caring and helpful and generous, as have been lots of people here at home. I couldn't have asked for better.

So I should be back shortly. Hopefully the cesspool that has overtaken climate science will have dried up by then, but I seriously doubt it. I'm not sure I even want to write about climate science any more. The dishonest pukes like Morano and Watts do not even deserve to be acknowledged.

Meanwhile, reading suggestions are welcomed.