Nothing says Labor Day Weekend quite like futuristic Japanese retro-pop-jazz fusion.
Now improved with accordion and xylophone.
Climate Change: Get Over Objectivity, Newspapers: I've been thinking a lot about climate change (aka, global warming) a lot lately. … I've also been thinking about the newspaper industry and global warming. And frankly, I don't think newspapers are doing enough. Indeed, newspapers' fabled commitment to "objectivity" has been a detriment to efforts to combat global warming. The industry still has a lot of power to influence people. How about if newspapers abandon their old way of doing things when it comes to the issue of global warming, and turn their influence to good?
Less Than Half of all Published Scientists Endorse Global Warming Theory: Comprehensive survey of published climate research reveals changing viewpoints. … Of 528 total papers on climate change, only 38 (7%) gave an explicit endorsement of the consensus. If one considers "implicit" endorsement (accepting the consensus without explicit statement), the figure rises to 45%. However, while only 32 papers (6%) reject the consensus outright, the largest category (48%) are neutral papers, refusing to either accept or reject the hypothesis. This is no "consensus."
The figures are even more shocking when one remembers the watered-down definition of consensus here. Not only does it not require supporting that man is the "primary" cause of warming, but it doesn't require any belief or support for "catastrophic" global warming. In fact of all papers published in this period (2004 to February 2007), only a single one makes any reference to climate change leading to catastrophic results.
Anatomy of a Tribal Revolt: All this means that correctly handled, with appropriate safeguards, and in partnership with the Iraqi government, the current social “wave” of Sunni communities turning against AQI could provide one element in the self-sustaining security architecture we have been seeking. And if the recent spread of the uprising into the Shi’a community continues, we might end up with a revolt of the center against both extremes, which would be a truly major development.The rate of change towards peace is enhanced by the presence of a catalyst, which is the role our military is playing. Kilcullen says, “Coalition forces have provided support to the community and to Iraqi forces operating in the area, and hence tend to play the role of honest broker”. I like the idea of a revolt of the center against both extremes. It could be one of the lessons from Iraq we can apply to ourselves.
Delusional Borrowers" and Reality Checks: I remain convinced that there's something wrong with blaming the financially inept for not realizing that they are financially inept, when those who are supposed to be financially ept--loan officers, brokers, financial counselors, advice columnists in business publications--spent the last several years refusing to tell them that they were financially inept.
Equal Credit Opportunity Act: Sec. 202.5 Rules concerning taking of applications. (a) Discouraging applications. A creditor shall not make any oral or written statement, in advertising or otherwise, to applicants or prospective applicants that would discourage on a prohibited basis a reasonable person from making or pursuing an application.
Aug 25: raul castro cannot stand the big lunkheaded Thug Of Caracas. Sure he likes his money, but Hugo Chavez's persona is a different matter. raul, after all, is a disciplined military man of sorts. He's also a Marxist ideologue, far more so than his evil bearded brother. raul's vulgar, uncultured, ill-read and likes toilet humor, but knows his place and prefers not to open his mouth in public. He lingers in the shadows. He keeps secrets.
On the surface, the two are friends of course. … When castro first took sick last year, Chavez flew into Havana unannounced on a detour from some overseas trips and raul told castro's best friend to beat it, he wasn't gonna see fidel no matter how slurpy the two of them had been in the past. Tail between his legs, Chavez reboarded his plane and continued on to Caracas.
raul had his reasons. He knew Hugo couldn't keep a secret. The situation was in flux, from his point of view, and telling Chavez would be about the same thing as announcing it on a megaphone at an international press conference. That may be what's gone down now.
Today: Does anyone remember Yurii Andropov's eternal "cold"? (The enraged wife of a cashiered KGB agent is believed to have shot him.) Does anyone remember all the phoney pictures the Mao swimming released by the ChiComs and the gang of four as that dictator lay on his deathbed? Does anyone remember Kim Jong Il's lingering death? All these communist dictatorships deny their supreme leaders' deaths right up till the end and beyond because all the minions in the dictator's inner circle are engaged in a power struggle over who will rule next. There's never any orderly handover of power in a dictatorship because there are no rules or laws or institutions. There's just the leader's word and that leader is ... unavailable. There's no doubt the castroite toads are busily fighting it out tonight and for the next several nights.
Big Bro Comes to Your House: Check out this chilling passage from the city's "Cart Chronicle," delivered to Madison residents along with their new garbage bins:
"Microwaves, TV's, Fluorescent Bulbs, Computer Monitors, and CPU's require a fee for collection. Putting these items in your cart is illegal and you could be fined. Our trucks are equipped with cameras that monitor what is emptied and you can be billed for materials illegally placed in your cart."
Holy police state, Batman! Besides making profligate use of capitalization and apostrophes, the city's garbage Gestapo are watching what you toss, so violators can be punished.
A Real Bush Administration Assault on Civil liberties: The Bush Administration has now approved a program that can be rightly considered a direct assault on civil liberties. [Quoting the Washington Post source] The Bush administration has approved a plan to expand domestic access to some of the most powerful tools of 21st-century spycraft, giving law enforcement officials and others the ability to view data obtained from satellite and aircraft sensors that can see through cloud cover and even penetrate buildings and underground bunkers.
A program approved by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security will allow broader domestic use of secret overhead imagery beginning as early as this fall, with the expectation that state and local law enforcement officials will eventually be able to tap into technology once largely restricted to foreign surveillance...
Iranian Rights Activists, Intellectuals Decry Arrests: More than 650 Iran-based human rights activists and intellectuals have issued an open letter to condemn what they describe as increasing pressure on students, journalists, and workers, Radio Farda reported. The statement claims an increasing number of students and political activists are facing "false" accusations of disrupting public order, insulting sacred values, or involvement in what officials have called a "creeping coup."
Iran's Revolutionary Guard: For a quarter of a century, the regime established by Khomeini has been labeled a “mullahrchy”, a theocracy dominated by the Shi’ite clergy. Now, however, those familiar with the Iranian situation know that a majority of Shi’ite clerics never converted to Khomeinism and did not endorse the Islamic Republic. Today, it is safe to say that the dominant force within the ruling establishment in Tehran is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
A Third Option (neither appeasement nor war): The potential for bringing about a change in government resides with the Iranian people, indeed. Commenting on prior anti-government protests, a Tehran-based European diplomat explained, "The pent-up anger is still there, beneath the surface. But for it to seriously take off you need a catalyst, you need a cause, you need organization and leadership. It's a big task," Support for Iran’s largest, most organized, secular, and democratic opposition, the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK) and the National Council of Resistance of Iran led by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi is instrumental in solving the Iran riddle.
NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory is able to forecast lake levels 12 months in advance using current hydrological conditions combined with NOAA’s long-term climate outlooks. … “it looks as though the water levels may continue to plunge," said Cynthia Sellinger, deputy director of NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor, Mich. "NOAA's lake level forecasts predict that there is a 15 to 20 percent probability that new monthly records will be set sometime this fall."
CIA: What follows is the story of the US Office of War Information (OWI) and the dramatic role it played in the surrender of the Japanese empire. …
At the same time, newspapers and leaflets in the Japanese language were printed on Saipan. From there, Air Force B-29s flying at 20,000 feet dropped 500-pound M-16 fire bomb containers converted into leaflet casings. These opened at 4,000 feet to deploy millions of leaflets, effectively covering a whole Japanese city with information. In just the last three months of formal psychological warfare, OWI produced and deployed over 63 million leaflets informing the Japanese people of the true status of the war and providing advance warning to 35 cities targeted for destruction.
Publish or perish: Answer from the hero in Leo Szilard's 1948 story "The Mark Gable Foundation" when asked by a wealthy entrepreneur who believes that science has progressed too quickly, what he should do to retard this progress: "You could set up a foundation with an annual endowment of thirty million dollars.
Research workers in need of funds could apply for grants, if they could make a convincing case. Have ten committees, each composed of twelve scientists, appointed to pass on these applications. Take the most active scientists out of the laboratory and make them members of these committees.
First of all, the best scientists would be removed from their laboratories and kept busy on committees passing on applications for funds. Secondly the scientific workers in need of funds would concentrate on problems which were considered promising and were pretty certain to lead to publishable results.
By going after the obvious, pretty soon science would dry out. Science would become something like a parlor game. ...There would be fashions. Those who followed the fashions would get grants. Those who wouldn't would not."
Don Surber: The Dionne quintuplets were born on May 28, 1934, to a humble, French-speaking couple in a farmhouse outside of Callander, Ontario, Canada. They were identical sisters and for the first 10 years of their lives, the five girls were the No. 1 tourism attraction in Canada. Then came free health care for all Canadians. Which is why the four identical Jepp sisters were born in Great Falls, Mont., instead of Calgary this weekend. The Canadian parents flew 325 miles to get to an American hospital.
It’s not like Great Falls, Mont., is a teeming metropolis. With 56,215 people, it is slightly larger than Charleston, W.Va. Calgary has more than a million people. This is like being demoted from the Milwaukee Brewers to the Charleston Alley Cats. … Canada’s backup system is in Montana. Americans spend 15% of their income on health care. That’s why Great Falls has enough neo-natal units to handle quadruple births — and a “universal health” nation doesn't.
Small Dead Animals: Welcome to zero-tier health care. While the sacred cow of "universality" grazes on in the world of the reality-challenged, vast regions of the country are being transformed into zones of health care prohibition. With every new cut, more and more rural Canadians are faced with traveling long distances over crumbling roads to seek emergency care - the "vibrating gurney" of the rural ambulance.
The "not for profit" lie is so bold, so obvious, so outrageous, that it's difficult to understand how it's survived this long. The truth is precisely the opposite. Everyone in the Canadian health-care system, from top to bottom - from doctor, to nurse, to bureaucrat, to cleaner, to kitchen staff - has a guaranteed profit, guaranteed payment, often in wages that eclipse those in the private sector, regardless of quality or timeliness of patient care. … The most powerful check and balance of all - the ability of the customer to refuse payment to protest inadequate service - has been removed from the equation.
Associated Press: Troops training for and fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are firing more than 1 billion bullets a year, contributing to ammunition shortages hitting police departments nationwide and preventing some officers from training with the weapons they carry on patrol.
In Milwaukee, supplies of .40-caliber handgun bullets and .223-caliber rifle rounds have gotten so low the department has repeatedly dipped into its ammunition reserves. Some weapons training has already been cut by 30 percent, and lessons on rifles have been altered to conserve bullets.
Ammunition “Shortage” Squeezes Truth: Unfortunately for the astute fact checkers over at the AP, the article contains within it, facts that prove that this “serious problem” is almost a complete falsehood. The US Military does not use any .40, .45, or .38 Special caliber ammunition. The US Military uses only 9mm pistol ammunition, .233 (5.56mm), .308 (7.62mm) rifle ammunition, 12ga shotgun shells, and .50 caliber heavy machine gun rounds.
Police departments nationwide are being squeezed by the increased price of ammunition. Surging demand for ammunition by the US Military has affected the price and availability of certain types of ammunition. What the AP neglects to state is that, fueled by China’s and other developing nation’s voracious appetites for copper, brass, and lead, the price of those metals worldwide has tripled over the past few years. Such demand would have caused the price of ammunition to go up precipitously even if there were no ongoing war or increased US Military demand.
They've got the power: The private, for-profit company has proposed spending $3.1 billion on power lines in Wisconsin over the next 10 years. ATC bullies citizens who object to its projects, while courting people in power, giving campaign contributions to politicians and huge sums to environmental groups. The company also spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising, touting its mission to "keep the lights on.”
And ATC has been enormously successful. So far, not a single one of its more than 30 proposed projects has been rejected by Wisconsin's Public Service Commission.
Free Lightbulbs: Here's an opportunity to take action on global warming while providing a community service - free efficient lighting. We'll head out and about the Greenbush and Vilas neighborhoods with compact fluorescent light bulbs and information on energy efficiency and global warming. We have 1,000 bulbs to hand out. Over their lifetimes, they can save more than 450,000 pounds of global warming pollution and prevent more than 210,000 pounds of coal from being burned! (Not to mention, potentially saving our neighbors a total of $30,000 in energy costs) And we'll give folks coupons for more light bulbs and information on how to cut global warming pollution even more.
Interview with Ed Blume: When we first began to meet, we all felt that we needed a mission statement with goals and objectives. You know, like a real organization. We got over that pretty quickly, so we didn’t discuss our mission more than a couple of hours in our first couple of monthly meetings. We’ve become comfortable being a loosely knit group dedicated to educating the public and policymakers about the coming end of cheap oil.
I bike to and from work every day of the year except for when the streets are snow packed and slippery, so I burn some nervous energy biking back to home. A few years ago, I began practicing Kundalini yoga once or twice a week, and I feel calmer and more energetic at the same time after a yoga session.
President for life? The plan to abolish presidential term limits is part of a bundle of constitutional changes unveiled by Mr Chávez on August 15th. These would remove the last remaining checks and balances to presidential power in Venezuela. They would strip the Central Bank of all autonomy, allowing the government to spend the country's foreign reserves. The government would be given power to expropriate private property by decree, and to promote co-operatives and state enterprise.
Chavez Seeks New Constitution to Abolish Term Limits: ``We have to change the geometry of power,'' Chavez said in comments broadcast by state television, in which he proposed the creation of communes and federally governed cities across the country.
The Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela described by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, as “a tool to guarantee the collective direction and continuity of the [Bolivarian] Revolution,” is well underway with most assemblies or “socialist battalions”, expected to elect their spokespeople next Saturday (August 18) for the founding congress of the new party.
Rafael Hernández, an aspirant of the new party, warned of intentions to “kidnap this extremely important stage in the construction of the PSUV as a political instrument of the revolution,” … To avoid this danger, Hernandez argued it was important for people to attend the meetings of the battalions and to study and to read the speeches of the president.
Subprime-Infected Funds Drive Demand for Dollars: Last week's credit crunch has set off a worldwide rush for dollars as banks and fund managers scramble to pay back loans used to buy risky mortgage securities. … While the credit-market turmoil originated in the U.S. as delinquencies rose on subprime mortgages -- those made to borrowers with poor or spotty credit history -- it has spread around the world. European banks are particularly at risk after borrowing in dollars to finance their investments, analysts said. … The overnight lending rate for dollars in Europe, the London Interbank Offered Rate, jumped to its highest in six years as investors and lenders sought cash to unwind bets gone awry.
Derivatives Melt Down: In the past few weeks we’ve all been ‘peppered’ with reports about CDO’s and growing contagion associated with sub-prime mortgages. For clarity’s sake – everyone should first understand that these instruments are – for the most part – all broadly defined as OTC derivatives. ... The difficulties stemming from Bear Stearns has created reverberations throughout global financial markets with difficulties being reported in Australia, France and Germany. But what about other U.S. financial institutions? In the grand scheme of things, Bear Stearns is a “small payer” when it comes to OTC derivatives.
Mayor's Statement re: Streetcars: "There's an old saying in politics: when you've dug yourself into a hole, the first thing you do is drop the shovel. So I have decided that I will not continue to pursue the issue of streetcars in Madison. The issue is off the table.
"The Streetcar Study Committee will meet one more time to finalize its report and will then be disbanded. I will not pursue streetcars as part of the Regional Transit Authority. "Major public investments like streetcars should only be undertaken when there is broad consensus in the community, and that is clearly not the case with this issue".
Heretical Thoughts About Science and Society: My first heresy says that all the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated. Here I am opposing the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models. Of course, they say, I have no degree in meteorology and I am therefore not qualified to speak. But I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry and the biology of fields and farms and forests. They do not begin to describe the real world that we live in.
New certificate prepares students for global change: The Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies will introduce a graduate-level Certificate on Humans and the Global Environment (CHANGE) that prepares students to tackle global environmental problems. The certificate program will be open to any graduate student at UW-Madison, regardless of major.
A $3 million grant last year from the National Science Foundation's Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeships (IGERT) program made creation of the CHANGE program possible. Supplemented by $400,000 from the UW-Madison Graduate School.
CHANGE interweaves natural and social sciences and the humanities to explore the vulnerabilities and resilience of human communities facing complex environmental hazards. … The three-semester CHANGE curriculum will train students in professional communication and knowledge-management skills while exposing them to cutting-edge thinking about how human and nonhuman environmental systems operate and evolve.
Let Wisconsin Experiment with Socialized Medicine: As I interview people for my health-care TV special scheduled to run on ABC this September, I'm struck by how many hate the current semi-free-market system America has now. I say "semi" because it's not a free market when about half the health-care bill is funded by government. But it's still better than socialism. It allows for innovation like the creation of better drugs, pain-relieving joint replacements, artificial hearts, LASIK eye surgery, and who-knows-what-else that may reduce pain and extend my life.
Socialism will kill that, but people seem to like socialism, at least when it's sold as free stuff from politicians. Wisconsin's Capital Times reports that "two-thirds of Wisconsin residents support the Democratic plan -- even when presented with opponents' arguments that it would be a 'job killer' that could lead to higher taxes ... Said Sen. Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, one of the plan's sponsors, 'Everything we have heard [against the plan], we put in the poll. And it still comes back at 67 percent approval.'"
That's why America needs "Healthy Wisconsin." The fall of the Soviet Union deprived us of the biggest example of how socialism works. We need laboratories of failure to demonstrate what socialism is like. All we have now is Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, the U.S. Post Office, and state motor-vehicle departments. It's not enough. Wisconsin can show the other 49 states what "universal" coverage is like.
Insulation vs. Insurance: The health coverage most Americans have is what I call “insulation,” not insurance. Rather than insuring them against risk, most families’ health plans insulate them from paying for most health care bills, large and small. Real insurance, such as fire insurance, provides protection against rare, severe risk. Real insurance is characterized by: low premiums, infrequent claims and large claims.
The Universal Distraction: There is an artificial scarcity of service providers in health care, due to the need to obtain licenses to practice medicine, provide physical therapy, and so on. Licensing rules, while enacted in the name of protecting the consumer, typically serve the interests of providers, who enjoy membership in a cartel propped up by the government.
The Neo-Soviet State: The Russian political elite has long dreamed of finding a national idea capable of rallying the people. … President Vladimir Putin came to power under the unofficial slogan: "Let's put an end to the Yeltsin-era chaos." Now the elite is pushing a new national idea to rally the nation. It can be stated as follows: "We will protect the country from external enemies and establish a new global order to replace the one that so humiliated Russia in the 1990s." To put it more simply, Putin's motto is: "Russia is back!"
Searching for enemies and casting the West in the role of the principal foe has turned out to be the most successful method for rallying the people. … The arguments supporting the new national idea are plain and simple: "The West is interfering in our domestic affairs and attempting to weaken Russia. By promoting democracy, the West is really advancing its own interests." … Being pro-Western in Russia today is not only unpopular, but also dangerous because it necessarily means being anti-Russian.
What is behind the new national idea? Anti-Western ideology has become an important factor that legitimizes the highly centralized state. The Kremlin has to offer some kind of explanation for the concentration of authority in so few hands, the elimination of political pluralism, the expansion of the state's role in the economy and the redistribution of property. The search for enemies and the cultivation of a "siege mentality" have always been used to justify "iron-hand" regimes in Russia.
Health Reform Part III: Sound and Fury: In a previous alert, I argued there are three important questions to be asked of one and all:
1. Does the plan force anyone - any patient, any doctor, any nurse, any hospital, any insurer, any employer, any government agency, any anybody anywhere - to choose between health care and other uses of money?
2. Does the plan force any provider of care - any doctor, any nurse, any hospital, any anybody on the provider-side - to compete for patients based on price and/or quality of care?
3. Does the plan allow patients now trapped in schemes that ration care by waiting - Medicaid, S-CHIP, Medicare, emergency room free care, VA system, CHAMPUS, Indian Health Service (Indian Health? yeah, why not?) - to have the same access to doctors, hospitals, clinics, etc., that privately insured patients have?
If the answer to the first question is "no," the plan will not control costs. If the answer to the second question is "no," the plan will not improve quality. If the answer to the third question is "no," the plan will not increase access to care. If the answer to the full set is "no, no and no" (and I believe in almost all cases it is "no, no and no"), the plan is hardly worth talking about.
CRS Report for Congress: Almost all warheads in the current stockpile were built in the 1970s and 1980s. They require ongoing surveillance and maintenance because their components deteriorate. … NNSA is concerned that it will become increasingly difficult to maintain high confidence in current warheads for the long term with LEP. Reflecting this concern, Congress initiated the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program in the FY2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 108-447) “to improve the reliability, longevity and certifiability of existing weapons and their components.”
Nuclear weapons will continue to play a key role in U.S. security policy for many decades. Yet the Department of Defense (DOD) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the Department of Energy (DOE) agency in charge of the nuclear weapons program, have raised concerns that maintaining current weapons, which date from the Cold War, will become increasingly difficult.
At issue for Congress is how best to maintain the nuclear stockpile so that it will retain, for many decades, capabilities that political and military leaders deem necessary. There are three main options: (1) extend the service lives of current warheads without nuclear testing; (2) develop, build, and deploy a new generation of warheads without testing to replace the current stockpile; or (3) resume nuclear testing, which the United States suspended in 1992, as a tool to help maintain existing warheads or develop new ones. … This report does not consider a fourth option, abolition of U.S. nuclear weapons, as it has garnered no support in Congress or the Administration.