Thursday, July 31, 2008

 

Impeach Bush Petition

I was delighted to learn, a few minutes ago, of the petition below: better late than never. Although I do keep in mind and savor the possibility of a future arrest (like that of John Bolton attempted by George Monbiot), it would be healthier for the U.S. to start recognizing its own trespasses.

Unfortunately, this petition was designed without ex-pats in mind, so I can't fill all the required fields without a little perjury (the list of States includes American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Northern Marianas Islands, and Palau, but not "overseas," "in a foreign country," or "elsewhere").

If you can fill the required fields, and agree with the accusations and that they should be prosecuted, please go to http://kucinich.us/ and add your endorsement before Wednesday (hmmm, was that yesterday, or do we have until next week? Another comm failure, I'm sorry to note).
Kucinich Petition


WHEREAS, in his conduct while President of the United States, George W. Bush, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has committed abuses of power.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that President George W. Bush has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and Commander in Chief, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States and that he be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.


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Sunday, July 20, 2008

 

French Viewed by America This Week

France and the French are back in the American press this week in a pleasant assortment of articles. Remarkably, in the same week that a comic strip insulted the French , we also saw:

All of these showed positive images of the French, at least to a degree. I'm not likely to pay the prices noted in the first article for a bourgeois burger, and I don't dance Tecktonik™. But I'm told that people do dance Tecktonik™ as they walk down the street in Lille (aided, I suspect, by their mp3 "baladeurs").

I disagree with Roger Cohen when he writes of Sarkozy in the third article, But this man is a tonic to his country and the most important European leader of his time.--fever, not tonic, and we haven't yet seen the end of "his time"--but I won't argue with his next points:
In the space of a year, he has transformed France’s relations with the United States, Israel, its North African neighbors and NATO. On the domestic front, he has got a Socialist leader to confess he’s also a liberal, a word long so taboo to the French left because of its free-market associations that embracing it was worse than admitting incest.

Let’s take international matters first. Sarkozy’s Mediterranean Union summit — a kind of Club Med Bastille Day bash — had its share of vapid ostentation, but was significant for several reasons.

It got the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, in the same room, drew the latter out of isolation and signaled a new European awareness of how its identity has become inseparable from societies across the “mother sea” that have sent so many of their Muslim sons and daughters northward.

True, Sarkozy showed courage in calling that gathering. But surely Henri Guaino, the "eminence grise" who wrote it into Sarkozy's presidential victory speech in May 2007 (and who read Edgar Morin) should get some of the credit.Even if it isn't turning out the way he dreamed. Mr. Cohen, please note that the "Mediterranean Union" has been recast as the "Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean," an extension of the Barcelona process launched in 1995.


P.S. I've certainly missed, forgotten or otherwise omitted some other, less pleasant news and opinion.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

 

Brainwashing Americans using Embedded Inaccuracy

electoralmarkets.com uses Intrade.com prices to color a map of what the money says the presidential election outcome will be. Please don't take my word for it, visit electoralmarkets to see the map. As of this moment, they show probabilities
  • Obama 68.2
  • McCain 31.8


Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal today (July 19, 2008; Page W1: no link because it may only be available to non-subscribers for seven days) let RAYMOND SOKOLOV slip
At the very least, we believe that a candidate's taste in food is a more reliable indicator of character than the carefully strained statements issued in the current atmosphere of gotcha and gotcha back. So we have worked our sources and come up with the names of the candidates' favorite restaurants in their home states. We have tried them out and assessed what an appetite for their particular offerings might mean about two men with a 50-50 chance at spending the next four years ordering meals from the White House chef.
[emphasis added] into their article
The Candidates Dine Out
What Obama's and McCain's favorite restaurants say about the men


The reporting on the restaurants and the meals is fine, and I'll see what I can do with the recipes.

The market cited above--the Wall Street Journal and their readers do believe in the wisdom of markets, right? -- says it ain't fifty-fifty. But the guy writing in the WSJ says it is. Hmmm. Did the WSJ really pay for someone to do that research and then go test the restaurants and publish a few recipes just to embed the suggestion that McCain isn't way, way behind?




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Friday, July 18, 2008

 

Reporting on Mediterranean Jellyfish: Physiocratic (and phytocratic?) Resurgence Needed

Today, an article in Le Monde finally noticed symptoms of a human-made imballance in the Mediterranean ecosystem worth reporting, about a month after le Parisien and five months after the Independent.co.uk. What happened, the arrival of a stageaire? And how long until le Figaro, major organ of the country whose president organized the gathering for the Union for the Mediterranean, also notices that the Mediterranean ain't what it used to be?

Today's catch:

LE MONDE | 17.07.08
Faute de prédateur, les méduses pullulent en Méditerranée

Poussées par le vent, les méduses urticantes Pelagia noctiluca déferlent en masse, depuis quelques jours, sur les plages de la Côte d'Azur de Cannes à Cagnes-sur-Mer (Alpes-Maritimes), ce qui a obligé les secouristes à effectuer plus de 500 interventions, précise Nice-Matin. Le fait pourrait paraître relativement anodin, s'il ne s'agissait de la huitième année de présence consécutive de ces cnidaires en Méditerranée.

Previous warnings (noticed by this blogger):

Encore une année à méduses
Frédéric Mouchon
dimanche 22 juin 2008 | Le Parisien

Pour la huitième année d'affilée, les côtes du Midi subissent une arrivée massive de méduses. Une invasion due au réchauffement climatique mais aussi à la surpêche de leurs prédateurs, comme les thons.


The spineless menace: Jellyfish overwhelm the sea
By Elizabeth Nash
Saturday, 16 February 2008

For years, Mediterranean beaches have been plagued by jellyfish. Now scientists are reporting that the problem is far worse than they had feared – and that a new generation of the poisonous creatures is poised to overwhelm the sea


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Yahoo™ toolbar Piggy-backing on Sun™ Java™ Update: Obnoxious

Yahoo!™ using push rather than pull to deploy its browser toolbar projects the image of an entity in peril. If the toolbar were desirable, and actually satisfied a consumer need, why would they resort to this almost Trojan piggy-backing effort to get it installed? And why the Sun™ Java™ installer?

Java™ updates from Sun™ [on the platform Sony™ sold me] already left a lot to be desired: they nag to be installed with almost as much insistence as anti-virus updates, which is absurd since we all have known ever since Java™ was invented (by someone at Sun™) that it is designed to be safe(™?). How could an update, which could only be to benefit from improved functionality, be so urgent? Second standing pieve: they don't replace or uninstall the previous version, they just install another one: I had to go to manually remove updates 2, 3, & 5 after 6 moved in.

The installer showed, after the usual EULA, the announcement that Yahoo! Toolbar would also be installed, and recommended reading its EULA, too. I read as far as "to really read the full EULA, go to this URL. If you click on 'J'accepte' it means you accept the conditions..." or something very similar. I clicked on "next" (there was no "j'accepte" button) and witnessed Sun™'s Java™ installer install the unwanted toolbar.

Sure enough, when Firefox opened, another tenth (or so) of what could be displayed of a page had disappeared. The value of each of the buttons and other controls it offered could take a while (why Babelfish? and not Flickr? nor del.icio.us?), but offered little if any advantage over what the Firefox search engine selector, coupled with Netvibes as a homepage, offers. Nevertheless, a critique of one Yahoo! toolbar element: the preferences setting. A click on the "modify toolbar buttons preferences" loaded a "login to Yahoo!" page. Why? Why is this toolbar not a workstation installation, but a workstation plus Yahoo! on the Internet set-up?

Now, how to tell whether the uninstall actually does uninstall, or merely removes visibility of processes which continue to monitor my activity? I did not agree to install a key-logger, even if it is for a noble enterprise like Yahoo!(TM), so I sure hope Sun(TM)'s Java(TM) did not do so.

Yahoo! has an interesting collection of service offerings. However, they could improve their integration, or at least interoperability, enormously. Navigation from myYahoo! to Flickr (for the same userid) requires another login (last time I tried), and even navigation back and forth between myYahoo! and Yahoo! mail can quickly open more than two windows or tabs. Then there's the "anti-phishing" shield that stopped showing what it was supposed to show when something ate its cookie.

Yahoo! news has a button to post to Buzz, but not to del.icio.us. In fact, del.icio.us hasn't developed noticeably since Yahoo! bought it. Too bad, I really like del.icio.us and could like it more. The "subscriptions" are not as useful as they could be, and there are no tools to help find others with similar/overlapping interests, and that hasn't changed in the two or three years I've been hoping. It was not designed to be multilingual, or at least not to make multilingual tagging easy to manage, but that could be fixed if they wanted to. Maybe I should download and back up my bookmarks more often to avoid the panic when they announce its termination.

Bottom line:
  • Shame on Sun™ Java™ for their role as a vector.
  • Imagine life without del.icio.us sometime too soon
  • Is there really no other Java™ run-time than Sun™'s for a machine running Microsoft™ Windows™?




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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

 

Offensive Non Sequitur Cartoon Strip

Challenge: replace "French" and "Canadian" in the following dialogue (from today's Non Sequitur comic strip) with another pair of nationalities, or a pair of religions or ethnicities, to produce an inoffensive scene. (Like "German" and "Swiss," or "Catholic" and "Episcopalian;" but those seem not to be inoffensive, either).

Petey: "So, Dave is your ...uh...boy-friend?"
Lucy: "Yeah...Isn't he dreamy?!"
Petey: "OK...I don't know what girls find "dreamy" but..."
Lucy: "But. But what?"
Petey: "Well...you know...he's...he's..."
Lucy: "He's what, Petey?"
Petey: "French."
Lucy: "Actually, he's Canadian"
Dave: "Vive la difference, eh, cherie?"


Tough, isn't it. So what exactly makes the "French"-"Canadian" pair humorous and not offensive? Perhaps nothing. The scene is about what Petey perceives to be a shortcoming, a flaw, an objectionable attribute; to choose a nationality, any nationality, as an objectionable attribute without making clear why it is objectionable in the context is offensive, a gratuitous insult, and not humor.


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Sunday, July 06, 2008

 

Bret Stephens: Mass for Neurotics, or July Fool's Day Essay?

It has been widely noted that fact-checking in mainstream media is in serious decline. So, perhaps it is not surprising that there is none at all for the Wall Street Journal op-eds and editorials, and that outright lies can be written as "facts."

The case in point that inspired this billet:

GLOBAL VIEW
By BRET STEPHENS

Global Warming as Mass Neurosis
July 1, 2008; Page A15

Last week marked the 20th anniversary of the mass hysteria phenomenon known as global warming. Much of the science has since been discredited. Now it's time for political scientists, theologians and psychiatrists to weigh in.

What, discredited? Thousands of scientists insist otherwise, none more noisily than NASA's Jim Hansen, who first banged the gong with his June 23, 1988, congressional testimony (delivered with all the modesty of "99% confidence").

But mother nature has opinions of her own. NASA now begrudgingly confirms that the hottest year on record in the continental 48 was not 1998, as previously believed, but 1934, and that six of the 10 hottest years since 1880 antedate 1954.


What NASA says on their web site:

GISS Surface Temperature Analysis
Global Temperature Trends: 2007 Summation

The year 2007 tied for second warmest in the period of instrumental data, behind the record warmth of 2005, in the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) analysis. 2007 tied 1998, which had leapt a remarkable 0.2°C above the prior record with the help of the "El Niño of the century". The unusual warmth in 2007 is noteworthy because it occurs at a time when solar irradiance is at a minimum and the equatorial Pacific Ocean is in the cool phase of its natural El Niño-La Niña cycle.

Figure 1 shows 2007 temperature anomalies relative to the 1951-1980 base period mean. The global mean temperature anomaly, 0.57°C (about 1°F) warmer than the 1951-1980 mean, continues the strong warming trend of the past thirty years that has been confidently attributed to the effect of increasing human-made greenhouse gases (GHGs) (Hansen et al. 2007). The eight warmest years in the GISS record have all occurred since 1998, and the 14 warmest years in the record have all occurred since 1990.

And, a bit further on in the same page,

Summary

The Southern Oscillation and the solar cycle have significant effects on year-to-year global temperature change. Because both of these natural effects were in their cool phases in 2007, the unusual warmth of 2007 is all the more notable. It is apparent that there is no letup in the steep global warming trend of the past 30 years (see 5-year mean curve in Figure 1a).

"Global warming stopped in 1998," has become a recent mantra of those who wish to deny the reality of human-caused global warming. The continued rapid increase of the five-year running mean temperature exposes this assertion as nonsense. In reality, global temperature jumped two standard deviations above the trend line in 1998 because the "El Niño of the century" coincided with the calendar year, but there has been no lessening of the underlying warming trend.


If the man can't understand that, of what interest can his essay be? (Please do go to the NASA report and have a look at the charts.) The attentive reader may have noted that the NASA report cited above deals with global atmospheric temperatures, whereas Mr. Stephens considers one hot year in only 1.6% of the Earth's surface (contiguous 48 states) as discrediting the science; the comparison is a bit face-versus-pimple, so the reader may decide Mr. Stephens's cherry-picked factoid discredits much of the science, and the NASA report does not rescue the discredited science. If so, please leave a comment arguing for further research on Stephens's factoid.

The interest of the rest of his text is in the clues he provides as to the source of his preference for denial. He asserts that The real place where discussions of global warming belong is in the realm of belief, and particularly the motives for belief. This is surely true in his case, and that of other deniers. Which beliefs and motives does he identify as important in this case? What do they reveal about the beliefs he prefers?

The first is as a vehicle of ideological convenience.... its dire warnings about the consequences of industry and consumerism, is equally a rebuke to capitalism. So, denial is motivated by the incompatibility of capitalism, in his understanding of it, with environmental responsibility. Deniers would thus believe that capitalism without pollution and without tragedies of the commons is not real capitalism; responsible, environmentally considerate capitalists would not be real capitalists; capitalism requires ruthlessness and disregard for others and our descendents. They worship their putative right to desecrate the earth to honor the invisible hand. Nobody said ideology was intelligent, did they?

A second explanation is theological....A light carbon footprint has become the 21st-century equivalent of sexual abstinence. Which theology does he have in mind? Surely not the ones that say "go forth an multiply." Not that it matters: one does not have to resort to theology to conclude that it is wrong to poison the earth on which our descendents may live (See Climate Economics by Geoffrey Heal at VoxEU, for instance, or The Case for Mitigating Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Kenneth J. Arrow at Project Syndicate). One just has to understand economics and have some moral sense. Deniers, then, may be so because they don't understand why it may be better to be safe than sorry. Or even to save for a rainy day. If auto insurance were optional, would they buy it? How about health insurance (for themselves, of course!)?

Finally, there is a psychological explanation....global warming is nature's great comeuppance, affirming as nothing else our guilty conscience for our worldly success.
This one is quite odd with its reference to "comeuppance" as "psychological" rather than "theological." One needn't reach out to a vengeful deity; one can feel guilty for one's own imprudence. One can feel guilty (and anxious) if one drives into the desert past the "last station for 200 miles" with a near-empty tank. Or, in a more relevant example, for spending one's college tuition money on getting hooked on heroin, getting pregnant at the same time. This is not "comeuppance," this is foolish, short-sighted, selfish hedonism's predictable consequences. No resources, insufficient preparation for the future, unsustainable and unhealthy habits (passed on to one's offspring), and growing population. Guilt in those circumstances isn't neurotic, it demonstrates at least some grasp of reality.

Can Mr. Stephens truly not recognize that denial is not "healthy, life-affirming religion"?




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