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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Enteron to Enron

In one of histories truly humorous stories, I recently read in Kurt Eichenwald's Conspiracy of Fools (a real page-turner) that when Ken Lay hired a firm of high-priced naming consultants to find a name for his new company, they originally proposed the name "Enteron." Now, anyone with a dictionary or half a brain knows that enteron is the word for the alimentary canal, i.e., the gastrointestinal tract that converts food and expels it as waste out the anus. Given that Lay's company's business was a natural gas pipeline perhaps the name was more appropriate than they at first thought.

After some raised eyebrows and further thought, they decided on Enron, a company that eventually produced a different form of smellier gas.

Ann Coulter: New Yorkers "Would Immediately Surrender" If Attacked... | The Huffington Post

I just love it when the nitwits self-destruct. Surely people will now realize Ann Coulter for what she is: a non-thinking media hound who will say anything to get on TV. It's time to stop pandering to her nonsense. Personally, I think she should put her body where her mouth is and enlist.

See Mark Green and Steven Brant for additional comments.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Has Pat been drinking too much of his joy juice?

According to the CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network,) Pat Robertson can leg press 2000 pounds and drinking it helps him defy age. (Link) (They use it as a site to collect donor information by offering the recipe, but you have to register.)

Pat's recent suggestion that we assassinate Venezuela's Chavez, (Link)a man elected with a substantial majority of the popular vote is somewhat puzzling given Pat's ostensible adherence to the display of the Ten Commandments. I guess he didn't realize he was supposed to read it too.

Pat's fondness for the military is suspect given his military duties. His father was a Senator who used his influence to keep Pat out of the Korean front lines. (Link) His job was to be the unit's liquor officer and he was well-known to sample the wares. I suspect the alcohol did more damage to his brain than his liver.

Our Sunday school lesson for this week is, "Who would Jesus assassinate?"

Reverse Domino Theory

The fear used to justify Vietnam was that if Vietnam fell to the Communists, all of southeast Asia would follow. It appears that Bush is trying to do the reverse, i.e., create a democracy in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East will follow. Political arrogance and hubris in the extreme. Israel has been a shining example of democracy for many decades, but no movement toward democracy has followed. Of course, it did not help that we supported Saddam in his battle against Iran and prior to that we kept the Shah in power in Iran until his popular overthrow, and we still support an anti-democratic Saudi Arabia. Our record is not good.

A Sea of Garbage

Elizabeth Royte decided one day to find out what happened to her garbage. The result is Garbage Land, a mesmerizing trip through the hidden, but necessary, side of the consumption society.

The waste stream has tripled since 1960, 4.3 pounds per person. In 2003, every American generated 1.31 tons of trash each year, about 2.5 times what a resident of Oslo, Norway produces.

P.S. Why are we so worried about the pecadillos of the president of the Boeing Company. I mean, who cares who he might be screwing. He's producing weapons of mass destruction, for heaven's sake. And in the meantime, the GAO reports that $9 billion has been lost in Iraq, not misspent, simply lost, unaccounted for. In the meantime, I say who cares who is screwing whom.

And isn't it fun listening to people bitch about the price of gas while sipping on a $4 latte?

You can't smoke a cigar, but you can drive through a restaurant spewing crap into the atmosphere?

Monday, August 22, 2005

David Rothkopf on the National Security Council

David Rothkopf is an expert on the history of the National Security Council. He was recently interviewed on KQED's Forum (available as a podcast.) His new book, Running the World, The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power, sounds quite interesting.

The NSC was formed in 1947. It's an ill-defined group intended to advise the president. The personality of the president will often determine how well it works. The NSC came into its own under Eisenhower who appreciated serious debate of issues. Kissinger used his position at the NSC to great effect -- or perhaps excessive abuse -- putting the nation on a high DEFCON status -- something only the president should do -- just before Nixon's resignation.

Rothkopf reports seeing huge differences between the two Bush administrations. HW Bush was perhaps the most qualified person to run for president in many years having been Vice-President, CIA Director and a member of Congress. The meant he was uniquely positioned to understand how agencies interact and the value of rapport between different branches of government. W Bush had little experience and was beholden to ideologues with an agenda. Ideology is very dangerous to a successful foreign policy because it has little tolerance for debate and a variety of viewpoints.

"Congress is sick," states Rothkopf. The United States returns more incumbents to Congress than did the Russians to the Supreme Soviet! General elections don't matter. The only people interested in voting in primaries where candidates are chosen are the extreme left and right. They are the ones giving the money, which means the elected officials are beholden to groups with very narrow agendas. The center is no longer represented. Rather than discussing important policy issues, the debate centers on stem cell research or evolution. The media, meanwhile has failed in its informative role, by giving us a steady diet of Michael Jackson and girls lost in Aruba. Interesting perhaps, but ultimately irrelevant except to a very few.

Reform is impossible because Congress, while voting for change, always manages to retain control of its fiscal fiefdoms effectively canceling any meaningful change. Unless and until Congree is fixed nothing else can be done.

Monday, August 15, 2005



I just love words and this is one I have been trying to remember. It describes the experience of seeing a recognizable object as a distinct and recognizable image. For example, the face of Jesus in a burnt tortilla, or the face of Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich. (There's money in this stuff. The toast sold for $28,000 despite its being a little stale.)

A related word is apophenia. It has a slightly different meaning and is a recently created word (1958) "The propensity to see connections between seemingly unrelated objects or ideas most closely links psychosis to creativity ... apophenia and creativity may even be seen as two sides of the same coin."

Wow your friends the next time they see Pope Benedict in a mashed potato by describing their experience as a pareidoliac phenomenon. :)

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Peace House a center of dissent in Crawford - Yahoo! News

Peace House a center of dissent in Crawford - Yahoo! News

Should you wish more information or to donate money, click here

Wondering where gas prices will be going?

EIA - Short Term Energy Outlook

Here are some data and forecasts. Read the paragraphs not just the graphs and you'll note that any one of a number of factors could throw all bets off, although the prediction through 2006 is for a continued rise in prices. Note that when adjusted for inflation, $2.75 per gallon gas is still cheaper than 1981 gas. A lot will depend on what the Chinese economy does. Pumping in the Middle East is already at historic highs and can not be increased, so demand will drive price.

And don't forget, to paraphrase a WW II poster, and Bill Maher, when you drive an SUV or alone, you are helping to support terrorism.

Why Focus On The Family is of the Devil: A Christian perspective - By Elroy

Why Focus On The Family is of the Devil: A Christian perspective - By Elroy

A rather different view of Dobson et al.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

We are a ridiculous people,

Some data:

1. Americans drink, on average, 24 gallons of bottled water per year (just less than soda.)
2. A gallon of bottled water costs more than a gallon of gasoline.
3. Taste tests show most people can't tell the difference between bottled water and tap water.
4. Tests show that bottled water is no cleaner than tap water from municipal systems.
5. Tap water is free and plentiful.
6. Bottled water consumes huge quantities of oil (for plastic) and energy (for shipping all the stuff.)
7. Millions of people around the water don't have clean water while we import it from France and Maine.
Do the world a favor. Next time you're thirsty use the water fountain.

Sources: (link) and (link) and (link)

It's been a very bad week for cows.

The airports in Nigeria seem to not understand the purpose of fences. A herd of cattle wandered on to a main runway at Port Harcourt just as an Air France jet was landing (bad week for Air France, too.) Seven cows were killed, the jet skidded off the runway, no one was injured, but a lot of people are very embarrassed.

In the San Joaquin Valley in California it seems cow flatulence and bad breath are a more serious source of pollution than automobiles. (link) "Every year, the average dairy cow produces 19.3 pounds of gases, called volatile organic compounds, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District said. Those gases react with other pollutants to form ground-level ozone, or smog. With 2.5 million dairy cows — roughly one of every five in the country — emissions of almost 20 pounds per cow mean that cattle in the San Joaquin Valley produce more organic compounds than are generated by either cars or trucks or pesticides, the air district said. The finding will serve as the basis for strict air-quality regulations on the region's booming dairy industry."

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

If it's truly a war against terror...

Russia Bars ABC, Citing Interview With Chechen Rebel - New York Times

The double standards of the Bush administration are becoming more evident. Shamil Basayev has admitted being behind almost every terrorist attack against Russia including the siege of the Moscow theater where more than 200 children were killed. Yet the Bush administration remains strangely inactive. Bin Laden is still out there, Basayev is still out there... His obsession with Iraq is hurting our relations with our countries and weakening our national security.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The terror of an F-15

My son and I recently attended an airshow in Rockford. We both looked forward to watching and hearing the raw power of the military jets on display. An Air Force F-15 made some fantastic flybys using the immensely loud noise of the afterburner as the pilot shot skyward.

It terrified many of the younger children who burst into tears, clearly very frightened. That made me wonder of the effect such constant noise must be on children in war zones, from the noise of the jets whose pilots have no prohibitions against breaking the sound barrier, not to mention the constant assault of bombs on the senses.

I must admit to loving the technology and admiring the skill of the pilots, but what a shame all that effort goes toward killing people, many of them children. The chauvanistic jingoism of the announcers at the airshow began to wear thin after a couple of hours, too. When are we going to grow up.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Founding Fathers

The History Channel produced a vivid and riveting portrait of the Founding Fathers that is well worth watching. (Available from Netflix.) Consisting of four programs, it melds narration with enlightening comments from historians. It was very surprising to me to learn of the large role played by Samuel Adams, a failure at virtually everything else, without whom the revolution probably never would have taken place. He was part instigator, part terrorist, part propagandist and brilliant organizer who fired up Bostonians with the help and support of John Hancock. His likeness probably belons on a coin.

John Adams was very pessimistic before he arrived at the first Continental Congress. He despaired that there would be enough intelligence to pull it off. George Washington, despite his protests to the contrary that he did not want to become Commander in Chief of the armies, wore his French and Indian War (a war in which he hardly distinguished himself) colonel's uniform as a subtle reminder to the delegates of his military experience every day of the meetings. He just "happened" to have packed it for the trip.

The founders are revealed as humans who often did not get along. For me, that makes them all the more remarkable. We are already overwhelmed with too much hagiography and iconography in the schools. Some of that myth-making we owe to early 19th century historians who took great liberties in recording anecdotes and speeches that most likely never happened. (See, for example, the cherry tree story or the Patrick Henry famous quotes.) Reality is always more satisfying.

There are some lessons that are worth relearning. The British had overwhelming military and monetary superiority, if not even popular support -- and there is evidence that a majority disliked the idea of independence. Yet, the revolutionaries had location on their side. I can't think of an example where a foreign or colonial power has been able to win in the long run over a local insurgency because the locals know that, eventually, the distant power will have to leave. We failed to understand that in Vietnam and perhaps we will have to relearn it in Iraq.

While the programs have been criticized for being to short and leaving the viewers with more questions than answers, I find that to be one of the series strengths. Anything that encourages the viewer to want to learn more is a plus.

Some pertinent quotes

Those who give up essential liberties for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

~Benjamin Franklin

The chain reaction of evil--wars producing more wars -- must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious.

~General Smedley Butler

Imperialism is an institution under which one nation asserts the right to seize the land or at least to control the government or resources of another people.

~John T. Flynn

After every ''victory'' you have more enemies.

~Jeanette Winterson