Friday, April 25, 2008

Ethanol - Left and Right

I've disagreed with David Freddoso here, in the past. I fully endorse his point of view in the following:

On many issues, Conservatives have more in common with ideological liberals than we do with the business interests that come to Washington looking for a handout. Our goal should be to persuade the Left — to use clear failures we agree on, like ethanol — to demonstrate that Big Business will always come to Washington for handouts until Washington stops giving them altogether. Each new handout is the next ethanol, the next sugar — and once you've started giving a handout, it never ends.

Read the whole thing. I may disagree with Freddoso on many things, but he's one of the reasons that reading The Corner is far from a waste of time.

Friday Galactic Blogging

The object pictured in this dramatic non-APOD view of an ongoing galactic collision is known as Arp 148. "Arp" is the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies. The object to the left is the smaller of two galaxies which is apparently just completing the process of passing through the center of the larger object, leaving a ring shaped galaxy in its wake. Spectacular!

H/T Bad Astronomy Blog. Clicking the image, will link you to the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope page for this object, and higher resolution views are offered there.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It's All About Me!

I initially posted this on as a comment on, but it works here pretty well, so I'm reposting it:

The only presidential candidate I've ever voted for who actually won that election was Bill Clinton. And since his second term wasn't really much in doubt that means I've only cast one effective presidential vote in my life. My primary record is even more dismal, with a perfect zero percent success rate. I've been dithering between Obama and Hillary for months, maybe leaning slightly towards Obama, but as I've said before: I don't care who wins as long as the the winner in November isn't a Republican. So, yesterday was the primary in PA, a beautiful perfect morning to walk to my local polling place - a gentle breeze at sixty-eight degrees, chirping birds and flowering trees under blue skies - and pull the lever for Obama. At that moment Obama must have heard a thunderclap, as the skies darkened and a bony finger revealed itself among the clouds pointing his way while a low voice chuckled unpleasantly.

Ok, maybe it's not all about me. I still really only care that whoever emerges from the primary process on the Dem side is an effective candidate, and it increasingly looks like both of them are dismayingly incompetent. I would like, at some point, to feel as if my political judgment was shared by a majority of my neighbors - but right at the moment it looks to me like McCain is trending toward consensus support.

Which, getting back to my first point, is somehow appropriate - I would have strongly considered voting for him in 2000 - I wasn't a fan of Gore's at the time - so naturally he was womped by the most ridiculous opponent imaginable; this time I've decided that I couldn't vote for him under any circumstances, and right now, at this moment, it appears as if the skids are greased, his glide path to the Presidency seemingly assured.

Or maybe I'm just depressed - it's still a long way to November.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Galactic Blogging

This is a beautifully detailed image of the Sunflower Galaxy, aka Messier 63 and NGC 5055.

It's a spiral on the same scale (approximately one hundred million light years across) as the Milky Way, and its structure is so clearly seen that it was one of the first so-called "spiral nebulae" to recognized as such. The smaller image is an infrared view showing just how intricately the spiral structure of this object is revealed. Click the main image for the APOD page. Click through for the higher resolution view.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Not Much Chance Of That


ERIC MULLER UNCOVERS a truly unforgivable act by John Yoo. A Dukakis endorsement! Hell, I voted for Dukakis myself. Remember that if you find yourself starting to repose much trust in my political judgment.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

This Is Childish, I Know

bjkeefe has taken note of a truly inspired bit of snark. If you’re familiar with Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism then you might recognize the Ezra Klein blurb as a spot on parody.

The following
pull from a Daniel Gross piece that I saw through Kevin Drum:

...The proposal to give new tax breaks to homebuilders and banks is yet another example of the pernicious trend of privatizing profit and socializing losses, which is gnawing away at faith in the system. Dilute the shareholders, not the taxpayers.

and a bit more from Drum:

The lesson here is this: Republicans will never give up. No matter what the problem at hand is, the solution is a corporate tax break of some kind. They will never allow a bill to pass Congress unless there's a tax cut included, no matter how stupid or misguided. Period.

provoked the idea for this picture.

So, admittedly Jonah’s cover image is ultimately more clever than my parody. Still, Jonah’s book is about the most irritating political stunt in the past little while. A little more snark seems like just the right thing.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I'll Take Option 4 Please!

One of the infinite number of things about which I am not an expert is economics. Despite this I'm convinced that the biggest culprit in the current mortgage crisis is a combination of bad regulation, not enough regulation, and bad actors on the financial supply side, if you will. I hear plenty of clucking about how people who made bad decisions should suck it up and live with the consequences. One of the reasons I feel pretty confident that that's mostly BS is that there are people who do seem to have some expertise, and who write about these topics in a way that seems oddly independent of the players. Hint: there aren't many in that latter category writing on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.

Having gotten to the end of that long wind-up, this was nicely said.

My heart goes out to people who don't have the luxury of prudence.

Too bad those without that luxury will probably also go without the luxury of help. However, if you lend money rather than borrow it, then providence may smile on you.

Bow Shock

More cool astronomy, this time from Nasa's Image of the Day gallery. The border between the outgoing stellar wind from young star LL Ori and gas evaporating from the vast Orion Nebula (if you hold out your hand at arms length against the night sky, that's a pretty good approximation of the subjective extent of that complex from our point of view) create a shock wave at their boundary, anologous to a 3D version of the wave formed at the bow of boat when it moves independently of the current.

Friday Galactic Blogging

It looks like a Barred Spiral here. The Large Magellanic Cloud is classified an Irregular, but on longer exposures, such as this deep field exposure from APOD, its structure begins to seem a bit more ordered, as if it was once clearly a barred spiral, but its gravitational interaction with the Milky Way and the Small Magellanic Cloud has distorted that prior configuration.

Click through for the APOD page, click on the image there to see the Hi-res view.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Him Funny!

James Wolcott sums up Michelle Obama's political liabilities succinctly:

I'm afraid Michelle Obama doesn't get it. Auditioning for the role of First Lady of this great, godawful land, her task is to beam at her husband as if every day was the first page of a lifelong adventure novel unfolding like a succession of blue skies (with a few storm clouds around to build character through adversity), nod with agreement at each sage talking point, applaud metronomically at conclusion of said point, and then wave a big buh-bye to the crowd as if victorious confetti were falling.

That's how it's always been done and breaking with tradition now risks frightening punditry's pale males with retractable penises who are intimidated by strong black women such as Michelle Obama, Oprah, Aretha Franklin, Toni Morrison, and, of course, Kathy Griffin.

He goes on helpfully, providing guidance through the complexities of McCainian language and usage.

Hate Spewing Crypto-Racist...

...Michelle Malkin reliably promotes a gob-smackingly irrelevant solution to the problem of gang violence.

Any guesses?

Rescind L.A.'s sanctuary law! (Known as Special Order 40.) Got that? Since there are illegals in street gangs, more immigration enforcement will fix the problem. Heather Mac Donald concurs, unsuprisingly. I'm not calling MacDonald a racist, because she's not. Malkin, on the other hand, famously authored a tome (I neither name it nor link to it) favoring the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII, with the clear implication that that would be the best strategy for dealing with Muslims in America, post 9/11. She's now been on an anti-immigrant crusade for a couple of years, blaming just about every problem she can name on the easiest targets she can find. What a charming lady. Here's a recurring motif of the pot calling the kettle... oh, never mind.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Mahavishnu Orchestra

Before jazz-fusion got to be dull and kind of snottily about how good you could play, but not about whether you could write - these guys were shredding eardrums and exhibiting astounding musicianship while simultaneously playing dynamic, compellingly listenable material. "John Mclaughlin" used to be synonymous with "guitar virtuoso," and Billy Cobham is a percussion god. Just one generation removed from Miles Davis' 1960's experiments in combining jazz and rock, this is about as good as this particular genre gets.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Identifying the Non-Trollop Vote

Sometimes doing the oppo research is almost too easy.

H/T The G-Spot.

More Power Line

While I'm complaining about Power Line, maybe conservatives could stop making weirdly false assertions about Democrats:

Current Democratic Party dogma holds that international trade is bad; or, at least, imports are bad.

Come on. At least try to approximate a plausible account of what a Democrat might believe. Sheesh.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

NYT, Hotbed of Anti-Semitism

How is it "censorship" when an a company turns down one ad, but just business as usual when the same thing happens to another ad? Ads get rejected every single day, asserting censorship and implying that the unstated reasons are related to a judgment about "the Jewish Lobby" is not particularly convincing. It just depends on whose ox has been gored. Scott Johnson:

David Harris is the executive director of the American Jewish Committee. He has posted an interesting account of the censorship of the AJC's weekly radio ad by the New York Times-owned radio station WQXR

Mickey's Mouth (As It Were)

Kevin Drum asks:

are we just making up special rules for the Clintons?

Of course we are. The context doesn't even seem to matter. In this case it's Mickey Kaus asking rhetorical questions about the Clintons' finances. Mickey - I feel entitled to refer to him on a first name basis, as a long-time fan of - asks, in part:

The press is focused on where all that money ($109 million) came from. Fair enough. But where did it all go? This seems like a genuine mystery.

except, as Drum points out:

Hillary already has to file an annual financial disclosure form with the Senate, and the 2006 form shows that the bulk of the Clinton family fortune is invested in Citibank deposit accounts and a qualified blind trust. The 2007 form will be disclosed in a couple of months. What more is there to know?

there is no mystery! It's been open season on the Clintons for a long time now. Some conservatives demonstrate absolutely no restraint in posing bad faith innuendo, or even making simple, evidence free accusations. (Why hasn't Hillary ever been arrested for Vince Foster's murder?) Mickey's a smart guy with actual journalistic credentials, you can sure if he really wanted an answer to that question he could have found it as easily as Drum.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Trace Elements

Ok, I'm no sartorial god. But between the accessory choices and the topic - plus the fact that I haven't added any content referential to Pharyngula in what seems like days - I couldn't not share this video. It doesn't hurt that it's really funny. Also, this seems like a pretty cool site.


bjkeefe encapsulates the Malkin Experience.

I have a feeling that even my clever headline won't rate me an Instapundit link.

If You Read My Blog...

... then there's a good chance you'll enjoy The G Spot. I first saw her via a link in an Ezra Klein post and she guest blogged for him a while back. It's smart, somewhat wry, and plain good writing. Recommended.

I found the "Backwards Bush" widget at her blog.

LGF, Best Friend of Tyrants

Say what you like about Charles Johnson, he's not a stupid man. What I utterly don't understand about him, and many other conservatives, is their apparent indifference to tyranny and their disdain for those, like the ACLU who try to stand between us and the creep of tyranny into our lives. Is it so hard to understand that guarantees of due process affect more than just the few people who might be denied it if nobody steps up?

And what can possibly be said about this dumbass? (Or, apparently, organized group of dumbasses.)

Friday, April 4, 2008

Petition Drive

Is there a worse pundit/blogger type than Michael Goldfarb, in terms of a complete lack of intellectual honesty? (Of course there is.) The fearless leader of the 101st Fighting Keyboardists, always willing to Support the Troops, never shy to find reasons for other people to die. Fighting for the Freedom To Argue Your Beliefs Whatever The Evidence (hereinafter known as FTAYTWE [catchy acronym, don't you think?])

In recognition of his efforts a new blog has been created: Draft Goldfarb. Go there. Sign the petition. Your country needs you.

What Can You Say About a Story Like This?

The Nation:

That dawn, naked, covered in blood and feces, bleeding from her anus, she found a US soldier she did not know lying naked in the bed next to her: his gun lay on the floor beside the bed, she could not rouse him and all she could remember of the night before was screaming and screaming as the soldier anally penetrated her while a colleague who worked for defense contractor KBR held her hand--but instead of helping her, as she had hoped, he jammed his penis in her mouth.

Over the next few weeks Smith would be told to keep quiet about the incident by a KBR supervisor. The camp's military liaison officer also told her not to speak about what had happened, she says. And she would follow these instructions. "Because then, all of a sudden, if you've done exactly what you've been instructed not to do--tell somebody--then you're in danger," Smith says.

This is what "Lisa Smith" (she's asking not to identified) reported on the record to Karen Houppert. The story goes on to describe another nightmare:

Over the next month and a half, she says, she faced a series of hurdles. She would be discouraged from reporting the incident by several KBR employees, she says. She would be confused by the lack of any written medical protocol for sexual assault (as the only medical person on site, she treated herself with doxycycline). She would wander through a tangled maze of interviews with KBR and Army investigators about the incident without any clear explanation of her rights. She would be asked to sign several documents agreeing not to publicly discuss the incident, she says. She describes having her computer--which she saw as her lifeline, her main access to the outside world--confiscated by KBR staff as "evidence" within hours of receiving her first e-mail from a stateside lawyer she had reached out to for help.

And eventually she would find herself temporarily assigned to sleeping quarters between two Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) officials, who, she says, assured her that it was for her own safety, since her alleged assailants were at the same camp for questioning; they roamed freely. When she wanted to move about the camp to get meals etc., she was escorted.

Read the whole thing. Blog it. It's all allegation, at this point, that should be remembered. But if there's no serious investigation it'll never be anything but. And why is the victim of an alleged rape being treated this way, in contrast to the alleged rapists? (Well, we know why.)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Friday Galactic Blogging

NGC 2841
. A close (50,000,000 light-years) obliquely oriented unbarred spiral, visible in Ursa Major. It's bigger than the Milky Way and only superficially similar. It is an APOD image and as such the same old stuff applies: click the image once to view the APOD information page. Click the image on that page for the higher resolution view.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Still More: BMFA

Nobody should hear about Martha Wainwright for the first time without the chance to hear the amazing, passionately profane song she wrote about her dad. (Loudon "Dead Skunk" Wainwright.)

While I'm At It

(Find it here. I've had to replace the embed link which has been removed.)

It was through this performance is that I first became aware of Martha Wainwright. The soundtrack album to this film is pretty constantly in the CD player in my car.

Martha and Adrian

That is, Martha Wainwright and Adrian Belew covering Bowie's Heroes. Who better than Adrian to perfectly cop that sustainy Robert Fripp sound? And he's not even playing a Les Paul!

Adrian has played guitar for David Bowie, and in what must be among the greatest compliments to a guitar players skills had a gig with Frank Zappa, followed by a long-standing (I assume continuing until now) seat in King Crimson - the only (non-bass) guitar player to have played with Fripp on a continuing basis.

Martha has an impressive musical lineage. Brother Rufus Wainwright and she were raised by mom Kate McGarrigle and her sister Anna McGarrigle. Dad is Loudon Wainwright III.

Lack of Preexisting Postings

Ok, I have multiple "preexisting conditions." I work as a contractor so my health insurance tenuously hangs on my wife's state of employment. I care a great deal about health care and and don't post nearly enough about the topic. In lieu of actually having said anything substantive, I offer this bit about Elizabeth Edwards, against whose health problems mine pale, somewhat.

Jennifer Oullette on the LHC

Over at Cocktail Party Physics she says a lot more than merely calling them "idiots." Unlike some.

Julian Sanchez on Hillary on "the Math"

I'll admit to a bias in favor of geek humor. My Phil 101 teacher (also the guy at the head of my introductory course in symbolic logic) had me reading Gödel, Escher, Bach when its "trade paperback" edition was initially published. (i.e., a long time ago.) I write software for a living. The only meaning behind the name of this blog is, well there is no meaning: the name just reflects my own particular amusement at self-reflexive labels. At one point in my life, I thought doing mathematical proofs was entertainment. All of this to establish that I'm not objective about this sort of thing. Still this, by Julian Sanchez, is the funniest damn thing I've read in a long time. Your mileage may vary.

What Am I Missing?

David Freddoso:

Meanwhile, the largest turbine manufacturer is...General Electric, and by a mile. They now own half the market for turbines, and nearly half of generating capacity.

So don't be surprised when you see GE lobbying for carbon-cap legislation that would effectively subsidize wind-power (even where it is already profitable). Green is also the color of money.

I don't want to put myself in the position of defending GE, of all things. But what exactly is the message here? David imagines that GE might, at some future time, begin lobbying in its own interest? Isn't that something which Republicans, particularly economic libertarian types, are in favor of? I guess if you can associate the label "Green" with something, then it's, by definition, specifically evil, and we must be, even in the context of evidence-free imaginings of the future actions of putative allies, vigilantly guarding against it.