Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


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Friday, March 30, 2007

Hexagon On Saturn

What does this mean? Why, that wargame designers have long known something about the structure of the universe that science is just now beginning to confirm.

(First link via Glenn)

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Dubya, Get Out The Veto Pen

The Democrats passed the largest tax in US history.


Lost Channels Edgar Allen Poe

The finale of last Wednesday's episode brought to mind Track 4 from this album (lyrics here, the poem that inspired the song here). Though the plots are largely dissimilar, the line "Part of you dies each brick I lay" looped through my head as the fate of Nikki and Paulo unfolded. It seemed quite appropriate.

That's the way old-fashioned horror movies did it. No blood or violence. Just horror.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

John Doe Manifesto

Michelle Malkin has a transcript. The post also links a revelant Hot Air video, and this background story.

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Today's Must Reading

Timeline: Iran vs. the US in Iraq

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Global Warming Debate

The Reference Frame has links to audio and transcript of a debate held on NPR radio. Check it out.

Update: I'm reading the transcript of the debate right now, and will provide running commentary.

Brownie points for Richard Lindzen, for mentioning that temperatures have been stable for nearly a decade. Since 2001, specifically - refer to this chart (source: Wikipedia).

Demerits for Richard Somerville, for ad hominem attacks against global warming skeptics, equating them with people who challenge plate tectonics and the HIV hypothesis.

Michael Crichton's main contribution is pointing out the repeated re-estimations of future warming. If they didn't get the estimates right the first two or three times, why should we trust the current estimate?

Gavin Schmidt launches into ad-hominem attacks against the skeptics, too - they're just like creationists and ozone depletion skeptics. Oh, and tobacco companies' claims that tobacco inhibits Alzheimers.

(Was the ozone depletion debate ever settled?)

Philip Stott: mentions the conventional wisdom of the 70s that we were headed for another Ice Age - it would be more useful if he could demonstrate similar flawed methodologies behind the new-ice-age and human-caused-global-warming hypotheses.

Brenda Ekwurzel: doesn't say a bloody thing about evidence in her opening remarks - she launches into a fire-and-brimstone sermon about the need to cut down carbon emissions. She pulls that "Earth is fragile" nonsense, says it's even more fragile than the human body.

First question: "Richard Lindzen, you seemed to say that warming could make the climate more stable. Brenda, you seemed to suggest, that it would make it less stable. Richard Lindzen, I'll start with you, and talk to each other. Are you arguing that global warming could be good for the earth?"

This is in reference to the debate over whether increased warming at the poles (where the warming is greatest) will make increase or decrease storm severity. That's really off-topic - it doesn't prove or disprove anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Patrick Michaels challenges the hurricanes/warming connection here.

Second question: "A question for the anti side if I might, these 1970s headlines about global cooling. That always comes up as an inconvenient fact. I've almost got a title there. [LAUGHTER] How do you explain that?"

Somerville counters that there was no scientific consensus on cooling, but that there was media hype. Whatever the case, this question is a distraction from discussing actual AGW evidence.

Third question: "Um, this debate is set up three on three, as if everything were even. But in the real world out there, we just had the big inter-governmental panel on climate change report in which 90% of the world's governments and 90% of their atmospheric sciences declared with 90% certainty, that global warming is real and human beings are causing it. Why would you three be more credible to the non-scientists in our audience, than all of them?"

Now we're getting somewhere, I hope. Crichton and Schmidt argue about the revelance of consensus - ugh. Get to the evidence! Stott tries to do just that, by citing the cosmic radiation theory. After repeated interruptions from Schmidt he says this: "There are some very eminent scientists, Professor Yanvesa [PH] for example, uh, uh, Nir Sh—Professor Nir Shaviv who won the Young Scientist of the Year in Israel two years ago, who are in fact arguing that 70% of, of climate change is primarily driven by cosmic rays working through water vapor and clouds. I'm not saying they're right or wrong, they're pointing however at the edge, to new research. You cannot dismiss that, because it's a consensus for CO2." Schmidt says the research is "bogus," but doesn't say why.

A side argument erupts between two panelists. Lindzen asks Schmidt about the latter's alleged claim that "the earth has been warmer - is warmer now than it has been for 1300 years." There isn't enough information on this episode to offer any comment.

The debate's moderator Brian Lehrer tries to get clarification on the "bogus" remarks. "But Gavin Schmidt, you seem to suggest that the other side does not have a real scientific argument, but a culturally or politically constructed one. You don't think they're sincere?" Here is what follows (emphasis added):

GAVIN SCHMIDT That's a very difficult question. I think—I— no, I, I do think that they're sincere-

BRIAN LEHRER You as much as said it.

GAVIN SCHMIDT I don't think that they are completely…doing this on a level playing field that the people here will understand. And, there are…


BRIAN LEHRER Well… [OVERLAPPING VOICES] explain yourself, because—wait a minute—

GAVIN SCHMIDT No, let me—let me explain, explain that—

BRIAN LEHRER Because they have larger cultural or political agendas?

GAVIN SCHMIDT No, um, I have no idea what their political or cultural agendas are, and to be frank I'm not very interested.

PHILIP STOTT I'm left-wing and have no money whatsoever from any oil company—


PHILIP STOTT —and I wouldn't.

GAVIN SCHMIDT That's fine. [LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE] That's fine. But I'm, I'm—


GAVIN SCHMIDT —I'm not interested in your motivations—



PHILIP STOTT —[INAUDIBLE] has interests.

This is where Team Schmidt lost the debate; to the audience the emphasized quote gives the message, "This is too complex for you to understand. We are professionals. Trust us."

Audience question one: "Hi, my name is Linda Caro, um, it kind of surprises me that, uh, the emphasis is on CO2 which is about one-third of 1% of the total atmosphere, whereas global—uh, water vapor is the vast bulk of it all. Uh, is it possible that we are, um…are not accounting properly for, uh, the giving off of heat such as nuclear power plants which are several thousand degrees Centi—uh, Fahrenheit, that we're cooling with water and air, every day, every week, every month, every year, that can't—"

Ugh. The first half should have been phrased "CO2 is X% of greenouse gases, of which water vapor is the vast bulk." The nuke plant theory of global warming is just plain silly.

Somerville responds to the second part appropriately: "The, the direct heating from sources like power plants is negligible, uh, compared to these, these other factors, solar radiation, greenhouse effect." He also notes that CO2 humidifies the air - more CO2 creates more water vapor. Schmidt, Stott and Lindzen argue, but they never get to what shoudl be the obvious followup question: does an increase in CO2 plus an increase in water vaopr directly attributable to that increase constitute a significant portion of greenhouse gases?

Audience question two: Andrew Revkin from the New York Times asks this one. "So my question is, uh, one about the hedging, managing risk came up a hedging exercise, if it weren't costly to slow the pace, beyond the Jesse Ausubel very slow [LAUGHS] decarbonization, if we could find a new way that didn't cost a lot, that actually could give energy for those developing countries that crave it, and limit emissions at the same time, would anyone on the pro side think that it's a bad idea to stop emitting greenhouse gases, if there were a solution."

Crichton objects to environmentalist plans that "Bjorn Lomberg thinks which is $558 trillion." This is evidently a reference to the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, about which Stott rambles. This is a distraction from global warming evidence.

Audience question three: "Thank you, my name is Heather Higgins, I'm not a scientist, so, pardon my ignorance when I hear the scientistic—scientific establishment believes in something I immediately think of flat-earth consensus, and the fact that there's no geography that should be admitted as science and that women are all hysterics and ought to be bled."

Schmidt now pays for his rhetorical misstep. [Update: Actually, there's some reflection of the earlier ad hominem attacks in her snark as well. - AKH]

The question continues: "My question is address particularly to Brenda, as well as to anyone else. Um, I was fascinated by your statement that the earth is more fragile than human beings are. Uh, I am not a scientist so maybe you can explain to me how we managed to get through the Ice Age and the Middle Ages when Greenland was actually green and people were a foot taller and there was farming there, uh, and nobody was digging up coal to warm the earth. Um, and, I'm curious as to why you think that this is an optimal period of climate, uh, certainly for far less money we could move everybody out of Battery Park City. And I am curious, if you believe that CO2 is actually the, the—the particular problem is actually the issue, the degree to which you are willing to, to become like France, where instead of having 20% of their power from nuclear, they have 86%."

Ekwurzel's initial response is that humans are irrationally building "unsustainable" communities in locations such as coastlands where climate change strikes hardest. Stott says Earth isn't fragile, but doesn't explain why. Another distraction from the central issue.

Audience question four: "Hi, Van Greenfield, just following up a little bit on the, uh…question two minutes ago on what we could do, um… Philip, you had said in another article, ―My own instinct is that our ability to change reflectivity on the earth's surface will in the end prove to have been far more important. In terms of the concept of reflectivity could you expand on that and its possible…less expensive method for dealing with this?"

Stott had theorized that changes in surface reflectivity have an effect on climate. He says, "However, we can't model it very well. And the problem is it's one of those big gaps like many others things in the models that we're talking—and that is a human factor. So in other words I agree with that, exactly how we cope with it though is another issue, because we know so little about it."

His next sentence is worth noting: "And can I remind everybody that IPCC that we keep talking about, very honestly admits that we know very little about 80% of the factors behind climate change." Riddle me this, Batman - how can we model the climate if we're in the dark about 80 percent of its driving factors? Schmidt cites factors we do know about and calls the 80% number a "meaningless statistic."

The host throws out another question, straying from the central topic once again: "For the anti side…they say…the real crises today include poverty, dirty water, and a lack of modern energy supply to 4 billion poor people on earth. So if this is a crisis, how do you prioritize it, compared to those other things, and assuming that it takes tremendous amounts of resources to solve any of them."

Somerville says we can attack several problems at the same time. Crichton agrees, with a caveat: "[T]the reality is that we don't. And the reality is, that, we are failing and have continuously failed to address the issues of the third world even though, everyone knows that if you were to, to look at it for bangs for the buck, if you were to look at it from a humanitarian standpoint, if you were to look at it from the easiest way to do the most for environmental degradation as it's created around the world, you would address global poverty. But we're not." The chief cause of poverty is economic tyranny, so a solution has to start there.

Closing statements: Somerville calls for action. Stott cites "some very reputable groups in Denmark and in Russia and in other countries, which are predicting actually that we will enter a global cooling phase between 2012 and 2015." Schmidt gives general examples of reliable climate predictions from the AGW camp. Lindzen makes a reference to repeatedly changing climate data, and asks why his opponents "don't explain why there's global warming on Mars, Jupiter, Triton and Pluto." Ekwurzel calls for action. Crichton rambles about AGW hysteria and takes a swipe at environmentalists who fly in private jets.

All in all an underwhelming debate. Very little effort went into discussing specific evidence. Ekwurzel was useless; her lines could have been delivered by Cameron Diaz (and probably have been on a few occasions).


Monday, March 26, 2007

At Least Somebody Is Guarding Against Illegal Aliens

See this headline. Found at No Pasaran.

Update: I wonder if our civilian border enforcers have been to McDonald's lately...


Socialized Medicine Doesn't Work

Watch this video (via the Malkinator).


The Polar Bears Are Ready For Global Warming

See here.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wisdom From Thomas Sowell

The Stupid Party should heed this advice:

When Democrats are criticized, they counter-attack. When Republicans are criticized, they apparently believe in "the soft answer which turneth away wrath." In politics, however, a soft answer is like blood in the water that provokes piranhas to more vicious attacks.

The Piranha Party...hmmmm...


Bong Hits 4 Jesus

No, Cheech and Chong are not guest-blogging today...

This is about one of the weirder Supreme Court cases to come down the pike: Morse vs. Frederick. In The Agora has the story:

In early 2002, a group of students gathered outside a Juneau high school while the Olympic torch passed through the city. The students also sported a 14-foot banner that read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." All of the students involved were subsequently reprimanded by school officials. Mr. Frederick brought suit against the school, alleging First Amendment violations.

The New York Times (free but annoying subscription required) has more background on the story. Representing the school district is none other than Bill Clinton's old nemesis Ken Starr. Backing Frederick are some of the usual suspects, the ACLU and the National Coalition Against Censorship, and some unusual suspects:

The groups include the American Center for Law and Justice, founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson; the Christian Legal Society; the Alliance Defense Fund, an organization based in Arizona that describes its mission as "defending the right to hear and speak the Truth"; the Rutherford Institute, which has participated in many religion cases before the court; and Liberty Legal Institute, a nonprofit law firm "dedicated to the preservation of First Amendment rights and religious freedom."

The institute, based in Plano, Tex., told the justices in its brief that it was "gravely concerned that the religious freedom of students in public schools will be damaged" if the court rules for the school board.

Give them credit for setting aside any distaste with the banner itself to see the bigger picture. First Amendment relevancy will be discussed, whether it is truly applicable to this particular case or not, and they need to protect against any potential anti-speech mischief that could come from this case.

Why wouldn't this be a First Amendment case? Here is my first attempt at legal analysis, in comments to the Agora post:

Since the banner wasn't displayed on school property, or even during school hours, the only way that the school can claim any authority to reprimand Frederick is if the event is a school event. The parade is sponsored by the International Olympic Committee.

But is it also concurrently a school event? Let's take a look at school proms. Attendance is optional, and they are often held at off-campus locations. Sounds just like this parade, right?

Not so fast. The prom has one more characteristic: the site of the prom has been specifically reserved by the school for that function. Unless the school made an agreement in advance with the property owners to reserve that area exclusively for students who wished to attend, Principle Morse's case looks weak.

This requires some clarification. As reported by the NYT, the school's cheerleaders and marching band participated in the parade, thus the parade itself is cosponsored by the school. But the parade viewing is a separate event. If the school didn't officially reserve space for student parade viewing, then the school doesn't have jurisdiction to regulate any kind of activity going on there.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Cathy Seipp

Rest in peace.

A quote of hers appears in my annual "Odes to Liberty" post, starting with the 2005 installment:

"Funny that the same people to whom diversity is a holy word so often bemoan diversity of opinion as divisive. But in a democracy, politics are naturally divisive: you vote for this candidate and someone else votes for that one; you vote yes (or no) on a proposition and other citizens disagree. What's not divisive? Saddam and his 99.96% of the vote. That's how it went during the previous Iraqi election -- an illustration of the Latin roots of the word fascism, which actually means a bunch of sticks all tied together in one big unhappy unified bunch, and not (despite what many assume) any variation from p.c. received-wisdom regarding gay rights, affirmative action, bilingual education, etc. This election was different because it was divisive, which means it was better."


Good News From The War Front

Clarity & Resolve links a few news items.

(Link via reader BC, who posted it in the Instant Bark chatroom.)

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COTV #235

The carnival is at Silflay Hraka. Among the attractions is my sci-fi presidential admin post.


Maybe He Should Look For A Better Analogy

Doctor Algore makes a house call, and says that the planet has a fever. Well, everyone knows that when one has a fever one should drink plenty of fluids. Earth will get increased fluids from the melting polar ice caps...


Today's YouTube Offering

Obama supporters diss Hillary.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Wilford "Crazy Ray" Jones

The longtime unofficial Dallas Cowboys mascot passed away at the age of 76. has articles here and here, with an image of Ray in "uniform."

Condolences to his family and to Cowboys fans.


Monday, March 19, 2007

How Do Iraqis Stand On The War?

Hot Air has poll results.

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Presidential Administrations: The Good, The Bad, And The Lost

What characters from science fiction would you like to see in the White House? Which ones would make the worst possible presidential administration?

I've come up with one roster for each, starting with the dream team. Most Cabinet positions are listed, including a few other high-visibility posts. Hyperlinks link to Wikipedia articles about the character or, if not available, about the movie/TV show where the character appears. Many of the entries are followed with a brief explanation.

First, the dream team:

  • President: Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars)
  • Vice President: Mr. Spock (Star Trek: TOS)
  • Sec. of Agriculture: Kes (Star Trek: Voyager) - All that work in the hydroponics bay pays off.
  • Sec. of Commerce: Lando Calrissian (Star Wars) - Someone with experience in aboveboard business and smuggling knows how markets work.
  • Sec. of Defense: William Adama (Battlestar Galactica, reimagined) - one of sci-fi's most competent military commanders.
  • Sec. of Education: Yoda (Star Wars) - Jedi for 800 years he taught.
  • Sec. of Homeland Security: Lyta Alexander (Babylon 5) - Let the terrorists try to get past a telepath - suggested by reader Trooper THX1138
  • Sec. of Housing and Urban Development: Slartibartfast (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) - The guy designs entire planets; this post should be a piece of cake.
  • Sec. of State: Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: TNG)
  • Sec. of Transportation: Montgomery Scott (Star Trek: TOS) - Beam us up.
  • Sec. of Treasury: Rom (Star Trek: DS9) - The trustworthy Ferengi.
  • Sec. of Veterans' Affairs: Admiral Akbar (Star Wars)
  • Attorney General: Lee Adama (Battlestar Galactica, reimagined) - His dad did give him a bunch of law books...
  • Dir. of National Endowment for the Arts: Mr. McConnell (Mork and Mindy)
  • CIA Director: Mr. Universe (Serenity) - The ultimate in electronic surveillance.
  • FBI Director: Odo (Star Trek: DS9) - He's an experienced cop, and a master of undercover ops.
  • NASA Director: Jack O'Neill (Stargare SG-1) - Rockets, shmockets - we got something better.
  • National Security Advisor: James T. Kirk (Star Trek: TOS) - Kirk's gotta be there somewhere. Seems like a good post for someone adept at handling "impossible" situations.
  • Surgeon General: Dr. Leonard McCoy (Star Trek: TOS)
  • UN Ambassador: Vir Cotto (Babylon 5) - suggested by reader Trooper THX1138
  • White House pet: K-9 (Doctor Who)

The nightmare team was selected to reflect not evil (although there's some of that), but incompatibility with the office.

  • President: Richard Nixon's Head (Futurama)
  • Vice President: Dr. Zachary Smith (Lost in Space, original series)
  • Sec. of Agriculture: Seymour Krelboyne (Little Shop of Horrors) - Uh, we're supposed to eat the veggies, not the other way around...
  • Sec. of Commerce: Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg (The Fifth Element) - He actually promotes the broken window fallacy as a viable economic philosophy. Not surprising for Hollywood.
  • Sec. of Defense: Colonel Sandurz (Spaceballs)
  • Sec. of Education: Captain Beatty (Fahrenheit 451) - Chief of the book-burning "fire department;" listed as "The Captain" in film credits.
  • Sec. of Homeland Security: Gaius Baltar (Battlestar Galactica, reimagined) - There sure are a lot of blonde women working at DHS...
  • Sec. of Housing and Urban Development: Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz, Vogon Constructor Fleet commander (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) - "All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display in your local planning department on Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years..."
  • Sec. of State: President Adar (Battlestar Galactica, original) - He did such a good job negotiating peace with the Cylons...
  • Sec. of Transportation: Doctor Who (Doctor Who) - The TARDIS can go to a lot of places, but it's a bit unreliable.
  • Sec. of Treasury: Quark (Star Trek: DS9)
  • Sec. of Veterans' Affairs: Saul Tigh (Battlestar Galactica, reimagined) - Shell-shocked alcoholic misanthrope. Perfect.
  • Attorney General: Makbar, Chief Archon of Cardassia (Star Trek: DS9) - link is to the episode "Tribunal" wher Makbar appears
  • Dir. of National Endowment for the Arts: Tom Paris (Star Trek: Voyager) - Star Fleet officer and creator of The Adventures of Captain Proton.
  • CIA Director: Aaron Doral, aka Number Five (Battlestar Galactica, reimagined) - Only the Cylons would employ infiltrator agents who look like each other. (And only the Colonials would fail to spot them in time.)
  • FBI Director: Scorpius (Farscape) - suggested by reader Trooper THX1138
  • NASA Director: HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey) - Open the pod bay door...
  • National Security Advisor: Grand Moff Tarkin(Star Wars) - He shoudl have looked over the specs of the original Death Star a lot more closely...
  • Surgeon General: Dr. Phlox, mirror universe (Star Trek: Enterprise) - The citizens want him to work on finding cures for all sorts of ailments, but he's too busy perfecting the agonizer booth.
  • UN Ambassador: Jayne Cobb (Firefly/Serenity)
  • White House pet: Beach ball alien (Dark Star)

Just for fun, I thought I'd add one completely staffed by Lost characters, including some that had been killed off in earlier episodes. Refer to Wikipedia's list of Lost characters. All Cabinet positions are filled in this list, along with the non-Cabinet slots in the above lists. I created a special post so that Charlie Pace would have something to do. Members of The Others are noted.

Orignally I put Sawyer in Commerce as a joke, but noted that confidence men and diplomats tend to share the same skill set. I also had Jin in charge of US Fish and Wildlife, but decided that his organized crime experience could come in handy at the FBI. The late Edward Mars was a US Marshal, so I moved him from FBI to that post.

  • President: Dr. Jack Shephard
  • Vice President: Kate Austen
  • Sec. of Agriculture: Sun Kwon
  • Sec. of Commerce: Boone Carlyle
  • Sec. of Defense: Sayid Jarrah
  • Sec. of Education: Dr. Leslie Arzt
  • Sec. of Health and Human Services: Claire Littleton
  • Sec. of Homeland Security: The Smoke Monster
  • Sec. of Housing and Urban Development: Benjamin Linus, The Others
  • Sec. of Interior: Danielle Rousseau
  • Sec. of Labor: Tom, The Others
  • Sec. of Navy: Desmond Hume
  • Sec. of State: John Locke
  • Sec. of Transportation: Cindy Chandler, Oceanic flight attendant
  • Sec. of Treasury: Hugo "Hurley" Reyes
  • Sec. of Veterans' Affairs: Sgt. Major Sam Austen, Kate's dad
  • Attorney General: Susan Lloyd, Walt's mom
  • Dir. of National Drug Control Policy: Mr. Eko
  • Dir. of National Endowment for the Arts: Michael Dawson
  • Dir. of US Marshals Service: Edward Mars
  • CIA Director: Kelvin Inman
  • FBI Director: Jin Kwon
  • National Security Advisor: Penelope Widmore
  • Surgeon General: Dr. Juliet Burke, The Others
  • UN Ambassador: James "Sawyer" Ford
  • White House band: DriveSHAFT, featuring Charlie Pace
  • White House pet: Vincent the Dog

Update: I added NEA Director to the dream and nightmare administrations.

Update: I added National Security Advisor to all three administrations. The Season 2 finale of Lost shoudl explain my choice of Penelope.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sunspots And The Final Frontier

The Great Global Warming Swindle has created a lot of buzz at sites like Samizdata and (appropriately) Hot Air.

The solar activity theory is especially noteworthy. Historical data on sunspot activity and cosmic radiation in the Earth's lower atmosphere suggest that as solar activity increases, solar wind incrases, thus "blowing" more cosmic radiation away from Earth. Less cosmic radiation means less cloud formation, and thus less water vapor, which is the most significant greenhouse gas. Thus the Earth warms.

As I was watching this segment, I started pondering the relevance of this theory to interplanetary colonization. If we ever discover the technology to reach another star system within a reasonable amount of time, presumably that will come after we are able to study Earth-sized planets without leaving home. It makes sense that we shoudl find out some basic facts about foreign planets before we send out any colonization missions.

Most important is atmospheric content. Judging from the lack of heavy elements in the atmospheres of both Venus and Mars, each of which has a mass significantly less than that of Earth (.815 and ,107 Earths, respectively), it appears that planets will have to reach a certain mass before sustaining enough oxygen to support terrestrial life.

It also helps to know about long-term climate variation. By the time we can study terrestrial planets from long distance we'll be able to get direct temperature readings as well. But we'll only know about the present, and not that planet's past. If we can nail down the effect of solar activity on warming by study terrestrial and Martian core samples, we can get a good idea of the variability of that planet's climate. We would have to study extrasolar sunspot activity, if we're not doing that already. I suspect that stars within the same stellar classification will have similar sunspot cycles.


Now That Eat An Animal For PETA Day Is Over...

...let me toss out an idea for Ingrid Newkirk:

Carnivore offsets.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Carnival Is In Town

Silflay Hraka is hosting this week's Carnival of the Vanities. Among the attractions is my post on the rules of name-calling.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Fred Thompson Facts

IMAO has 'em here.

Update: Commenters add their own facts, including this one from Patrick: "If Fred Thompson was at Thermopylae the movie would have been called 1."

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Start Planning The Menu

Eat an Animal for PETA Day is this Thursday.

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PhotoShopped Animals

Check it out.


Truth In Advertising

A slogan once used by the highwaymen of old has been put to proper use.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Historical Fantasy

Jim Treacher has a post on negative reviews of the film 300. Link via Emperor Misha300, where I threw in this comment:

Some people object to the way the Persians are portrayed:

Note the ethnicity of the overwhelming majority of the signatories. DO NOT confuse these people with the Iranian mullahs and their apologists. Most of them are in the West because they're running away from the theocracy. (Thus most of them consider Jimmy Carter an enemy for what he did to the Shah.)

[Note: I learned of the petition from a Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi email. She is definitely not an apologist for the mullahs.]

This film represents an art form that's fairly new to human history, and possibly a first: taking a real-life event and creating a pure fantasy that really has nothing to do with (in this case) the real Spartans or the real Persians. It's just like doing film adaptations that don't stay true to the book. Most people expect historical films to be about history, and when such a film paints one side as demons, such get the impression that the film is intentionally badmouthing the historical figures that inspired the film. Agree to disagree with the signatories of the petition, and if you ever meet one invite him or her over to play with your Jimmy Carter dart board.

Some people are mistaking the characters for real-life personages, but not who you might think::

Three weeks ago a handful of reporters at an international press junket here for the Warner Brothers movie “300,” about the battle of Thermopylae some 2,500 years ago, cornered the director Zack Snyder with an unanticipated question.

"Is George Bush Leonidas or Xerxes?" one of them asked.

The questioner, by Mr. Snyder's recollection, insisted that Mr. Bush was Xerxes, the Persian emperor who led his force against Greek's city states in 480 B.C., unleashing an army on a small country guarded by fanatical guerilla fighters so he could finish a job his father had left undone. More likely, another reporter chimed in, Mr. Bush was Leonidas, the Spartan king who would defend freedom at any cost.

Mr. Snyder, who said he intended neither analogy when he set out to adapt the graphic novel created by Frank Miller with Lynn Varley in 1998, suddenly knew he had the contemporary version of a water-cooler movie on his hands. And it has turned out to be one that could be construed as a thinly veiled polemic against the Bush administration, or be seen by others as slyly supporting it.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Charles Krauthammer Writes About Memory

The thrust of his column is that people forget stuff:

Scooter Libby has just been convicted for four felonies that could theoretically give him 25 years in jail for ... what? Misstating when he first heard a certain piece of information, namely the identity of Joe Wilson's wife.

Think about that. Can you remember when was the first time you heard the name Joe Wilson or Valerie Plame? O.K., so it is not a preoccupation of yours. But it was a preoccupation of many Washington journalists and government officials called to testify at the Libby trial, and their memories were all over the lot. Former presidential press secretary Ari Fleischer testified under oath that he had not told Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus about Mrs. Wilson. Pincus testified under oath that Fleischer definitely had.

Obviously, one is not telling the truth. But there is no reason to believe that either one is deliberately lying. Pincus and Fleischer are as fallible as any of us. They spend their days receiving and giving information. They can't possibly be expected to remember not only every piece, but precisely when they received every piece.

Should Scooter Libby? He was famously multitasking a large number of national-security and domestic issues, receiving hundreds of pieces of information every day from dozens of sources. Yet special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald chose to make Libby's misstatements about the timing of the receipt of one piece of information — Mrs. Wilson's identity — the great white whale of his multimillion-dollar prosecutorial juggernaut.

Tim Russert forgets stuff, too:

But he is not the pope. Given that so many journalists and administration figures were shown to have extremely fallible memories, is it possible that Russert's memory could have been faulty?

I have no idea. But we do know that Russert once denied calling up a Buffalo News reporter to complain about a story. Russert later apologized for the error when he was shown the evidence of a call he had genuinely and completely forgotten.

There is a second instance of Russert innocently misremembering. He stated under oath that he did not know that one may not be accompanied by a lawyer to a grand jury hearing. This fact, in and of itself, is irrelevant to the case, except that, as former prosecutor Victoria Toensing points out, the defense had tapes showing Russert saying on television three times that lawyers are barred from grand jury proceedings.

This demonstration of Russert's fallibility was never shown to the jury.

I forget stuff, too - I misremembered something I saw on an episode of Heroes:

I remembered one thing incorrectly from last week's episode: Hana Gitelman wasn't part of the confrontation at the Bennetts' house.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Henderson's Rules Of Name-Calling

In light of the Ann Coulter flap I've decided to formalize an idea that I've been toying with for some time.

Name-calling has a place in public discourse, but there's a right way to do it and a wrong way. Since the marketplace of ideas exists to advance ideas (duh), the right way avoids using labels that are detrimental to the message.

With that im mind, here are the rules:

  1. Apply to a person a name that is relevant to the ideas being forwarded by that person.

    1. This includes all slurs denoting ethnicity, nationality, or gender.
    2. The person's lack of credentials is relevant only to the issue of whether that person should hold a certain position. A colorful expression noting my legal inexperience would not be relevant to my past bloggage on Supreme Court rulings, but it would be relevant if I sought a court appointment.

  2. Do not use vulgar language.

    1. Many slurs in Rule 1a apply here.
    2. "Homophobe" is counted under this rule. The word originated from the white-hot bigotry of that set of anticonservatives who refuse to accept that rational people can have differing views on the nature of homosexuality. We keep "nigger" out of the realm of civil discourse because of its close association with prejudice; "homophobe" must be treated the same.
    3. An exception to this rule is granted when the purpose of such language is to make fun of prejudice or incivility (and when addressing an adult audience). Classic examples are the Racist Word Association Interview skit on Saturday Night Live, and Iowahawk's forum on political discourse.

  3. The name must not be slanderous.

  4. Nazi references are generally a bad idea. "Islamonazi" may be an exception, but "Islamofascist" carries the same weight.

  5. Names with vague meaning should usually be avoided

    1. Use "liberal" and "conservative" sparingly, and pay close attention to Rule 10.
    2. Do not use "fundamentalist" at all - ESPECIALLY when referring to non-Christians. The word originally applied to a specific faction within Christianity, but that meaning has been lost over the years. It is commonly used synonymously with "fanatical" - see Rule 3. An exception is granted if the audience is exclusively fundamentalist (per its original definition).

  6. Don't use a label that gives more ammo to the opposition than to your side. Have some PR common sense.

  7. Don't use a label that reinforces stereotypes of either the person so labeled or of the speaker.

  8. Make sure that usage of the name is audience-appropriate. (That was a part of Coulter's problem.) The exceptions to rules 2 and 5 serve as examples.

  9. The label must not otherwise distract from the message.

  10. When a label is used, the speaker must explain why the label is deserved. In C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, the eponymous bureaucrat from Hell says: "Jargon, not argument is your best ally in keeping him from the Church." This bit of wisdom goes far beyond religion; just replace "Church" with any cause that means a lot to you. Explanations must always outweigh the snappy zingers, otherwise your efforts go straight to Hell.

Here are some names that conform to the rules:

  • Chimpy McHitlerBurton: Used to mock Bush Derangement Syndrome.
  • Christianist: When used to mock Andrew Sullivan; Instapundit has examples here. But do so sparingly.
  • Euroweenie: Refers to leftist Europeans. The issue is the weenyishness, not nationality.
  • Jooooos: Mocks anti-Semites. Number of o's varies.
  • Liar: As long as Rules 3 and 9 is kept.
  • Pleistocene Liberation Organization: Invented by yours truly, used to identify leftist environmentalists whose policies would reverse the direction of human civilization. The Pleistocene was the last epoch before the dawn of humanity.

These do not:

  • Christianist: Coined by Andrew Sullivan, which in this post he summarized as "the complete conflation of Christian faith and secular politics of the hard right." Almost as volatile as "homophobe," this word reinforces antireligious stereotypes.
  • Coulterism: Used to refer to uncivil discourse. Ann is far from the worst of the worst.
  • Das Klintonreich: Also invented by yours truly, as a private joke and not a label for serious discourse. I came up with the name in 1992 when I learned that one of Clinton's close advisors is named Reich.
  • Heterophobe: Distracts attention from real issues and toward the War of Euphemisms.
  • Hitlary: She doesn't get an exemption from Rule 4 until she starts herding off people into concentration camps. This also reinforces prejudices against Clinton detractors - see Rule 7. (Sorry Neal.)
  • Pro-Death, Anti-Choice: Abortion-specific distractions that feed the War of Euphemisms.

Feel free to send in names that you're not sure about.

Update: I just added the 11th rule.

Update: I made a few more changes. The rules on "fundamentalist" and "liberal/conservative" are combined into a single rule. The "fundamentalist" rule now cites an exception. The last three rules have been reordered; what are now Rules 8, 9, and 10 were originally Rules 11, 9, and 10, respectively. The Screwtape quote and additional comments are added to what is now Rule 10.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Scooter Libby Needs A New Lawyer

Libby will need a competent attorney as he goes through the appeals processs, not the yutz he has now who failed to a) ask for a change of venue to a location where Bush Derangement Syndrome isn't rampant, and b) keep Denis Collins off the jury.

I nominate Mark Levin - he is a competent lawyer with a spine and he understands the Libby case.

(Hat tip to the Rott for the Collins link.)


Read The Whole Sordid Thing

Writing for the Washington Post, Victoria Toensing applies Patrick Fitzgerald's "low threshold for bringing a criminal case" to other players in the Plame investigation: the CIA, Joe Wilson, The Media, Ari Fleischer, Richard Armitage, and the Justice Department. Oh, and Patrick Fitzgerald himself.

Update: See also Byron York's take on the case.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Heroes - Cliffhanger

(Spoilers ahead - episode synopsis here.)

So, Simone is dead after all. The character had a lot of potential and they redshirted her. What a colossal waste.

And we have a new "mutant," a snide chick named Candice who can shape-shift a la Star Trek's Odo and X-Men's Mystique. This girl has an attitude that's really annoying. I hope she gets bitten by Mr. Muggles before the season is up.

My guess that Mr. Linderman knows about the "mutants" is true (although my first idea at casting was way off). At least he knows about the Petrelli brothers' powers. (As I said last week, him knowing about Nikki/Jessica is the best explanation for his interest in her/them.) I still see no reason to believe that he's part of the Organization - I think he has his own agenda.

Linderman is clearly a megalomaniac of the James Bond villain mold, as revealed by his little speech about meaning and happiness. Humans are unhappy without purpose; people who see the two as mutually exclusive are the sort who perceive "meaning" in Napoleonic proportions.

Props to Nathan for not shooting Linderman. Nathan needs to stay alive to bring him down.

I may have been wrong about a Jessica vs. Sylar confrontation being the ultimate smackdown. I think that's being set up right now. Peter can and has absorbed Sylar's powers, and has some that Sylar lacks such as invisibility and regeneration. If Sylar were to prove victorious, he would have an ability that would allow him to absorb powers without killing anyone. Interesting thought...

What will the Organization do with Mr. Bennett? Or with Parkman? Where will Hana Gitelman turn up next? How did Nathan's mom know about the daughter he didn't know about, and what dealings does she have with The Jamaican?

Three cheers for Ando, for coming through for Hiro. Now Hiro has the sword, and he's made his getaway to post-nuclear New York City. We now know that the scope of the explosion will be confined within a part of the city.

Since Peter is the cause of the nuclear explosion according to his premonitions, it would seem that he's fated to survive this encounter somehow.

I've been thinking about the phrase "Save the cheerleader, save the world." The average person might assume that this means "Save the cheerleader in order to save the world." But could these be two separate missions?

Maybe they're not. Maybe saving Claire accomplishes one or several goals, perhaps all of those listed below, which are necessary to save the world:

  • The Organization is a threat to the world. Saving Claire created a chain of events that will somehow play a role in its downfall.
  • Linderman is a threat to the world. Saving Claire created a chain of events that will somehow play a role in its downfall.
  • Sylar is a threat to the world. Saving Claire prevents him from gaining her regeneration ability, which makes him more unstoppable. Saving Claire also allows Peter to gain her power, so that he will be able to have an important edge when fighting Sylar.
  • The nuclear explosion threatens the world, because a) it sets off a chain of events which lead to global destruction, and/or b) it kills people necessary to save the world.


Monday, March 05, 2007

First, Remove The Log From Your Own Eye

Conservatives have condemned Coulter's "faggot" joke in large numbers, but you don't see similarly large numbers of liberals condemn hateful and bigoted speech from prominent members of the Left.

Rush Limbaugh explains some of Coulter's defenders:

I think what people misunderstand about the rank-and-file in the Republican Party is that they're sick and tired of taking it on the chin day in and day out. The mainstream press can assault every one of our icons. The mainstream press, the Drive-By Media and the left, can assault every one of our presidential candidates. They can call George Bush "Hitler." They can write movies on how Bush ought to be assassinated, do movies and produce them; write books on how Bush ought to be assassinated; can say that they wish Cheney had been killed -- and there is no condemnation of it. There are a lot of people in the so-called conservative movement who are fed up with the docileness of Republican leaders in Congress, and even in the White House, who just sit by, don't respond, and just take this stuff.

People are hungry for leadership and they want there to be a response, and they want fighters...So when somebody like Ann Coulter comes along and says what she said, they simply react to it. "All right! Somebody's fighting back! Somebody is saying something in return to these people and pointing out their hypocrisy." I think that's why the support that is there for Ann Coulter is there, because she represents something that the leadership of the party doesn't provide them. The leadership of the movement these days doesn't provide them an outlet for their own anger. You know, individuals are sitting out there roasting and frying and getting angry each and every day at the things that are in the Drive-By Media: the unfairness, the imbalances, the constant defense of the people who are invested in defeat of their own country. They're never called on it. It's never portrayed. The Democrats and the left in this country are never portrayed for who they really are in the Drive-By Media. The White House won't say it and many of the Republican leaders in the House and Senate won't say it. They won't be critical of anybody. The Drive-Bys totally give Bill Maher a pass for wishing that Dick Cheney were dead, and saying that more people would be alive were that the case.

Limbaugh has greater diplomacy than many give him credit for, and he displays it in his own criticism of Coulter:

I think she might have been able to say it better. She might have been able to say that she was making a point about free speech and how you can't say certain things without getting sent to rehab and this sort of thing.

The problem with the joke is that she said something that's not okay to say call anyone or anything under any circumstances.

Update: I reworded that last statement. In context with this and past posts, the reader should be able to figure out what I object to is using "faggot" (and certain other pejoratives) as labels, and not merely citing them in screeds on the appropriateness of their usage.


Friendly Fire

I was mortified at Ann Coulter's CPAC gaffe. As I said in comments over at Mark Byron's, "it reinforces the worst 'hate the sin, hate the sinner' stereotypes of cultural conservatives."

(I also suggested a better joke: "[C]ast Edwards as the Wesley Crusher of Campaign 2008." I'll take Klingons over him any day.)

Michelle Malkin raises another good point (emphasis added):

Her "faggot" joke was not just a distraction from all the good that was highlighted and represented at the conference. It was the equivalent of a rhetorical fragging--an intentionally-tossed verbal grenade that exploded in her own fellow ideological soldiers' tent.

There are countless conservatives who bring their children to CPAC. It's a family-friendly event. I brought mine last year and the year before. I met several parents with their kids there this year. We expect CPAC to be a place where conservative role models speak with clarity, passion, and integrity. There are enough spewers of mindless filth, vulgarity, and hatred on TV, at the movies, and in the public schools. We don't expect our children to be exposed to that garbage at the nation's preeminent conservative gathering.

I was in the back of the ballroom and did not see any children in the audience during Coulter's speech. But what if there had been?

Would you want your children hearing the word "faggot" spoken in such a casual and senseless manner? Would you like your first-grader or three-year-old running around the halls of CPAC singing "faggot, faggot, faggot?" Not me. Not anymore than I'd like my toddler singing "gook, gook, gook" or "sambo, sambo, sambo"--favored epithets hurled at conservative minorities by leftist haters groping around in their empty intellectual quivers. There were hundreds of young conservative college students in the ballroom. Would you be proud of your college-age daughter spewing such epithets in her campus debates with leftists?

With a single word, Coulter sullied the hard work of hundreds of CPAC participants and exhibitors and tarred the collective reputation of thousands of CPAC attendees. At a reception for college students held by the Young America's Foundation, I lambasted the substitution of stupid slurs for persuasion-- be it "faggot" from a conservative or "gook" from a liberal--and urged the young people there to conduct themselves at all times with dignity in their ideological battles on and off campus.

Ann Coulter has got to develop some common sense. There are clever ways to deliver satire. Her CPAC performance wasn't one of them.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

171 Candles

Yesterday was the anniversary of Texas' declaration of independence from Mexico.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Lesbian Koalas

Many of y'all have seen this story (link via Sully). There are those who argue that homosexuality is natural among the lower animals and thus natural among humans. They observe X behavior occurring in koalas and determines that it says something about the nature of human psychology. But what exactly have they observed in this study? Note the second paragraph in the story:

The furry, eucalyptus-eating creatures appear to develop this tendency for same-sex liaisons when they are in captivity. In the wild, they remain heterosexual.

The real story is that female koalas, when taken out of their normal environment, change their sexual behavior.

Any bets that gay activist organizations will hail this as evidence that humans can change their sexual orientation?

This NARTH paper gives a thorough fisking to the animal homosexuality myth.


Irony Alert

Muhammar Qaddafi speaks:

"The prevailing powers today are in the hands of those who have economic and military power which puts fear in others. They can make you starve. They can close the doors for your exports of raw materials such as coffee or oil," Gaddafi said.

"This is an international dictatorship that is being practiced against people, especially poor people," he said of conditions imposed by Western aid donors on poor countries.

Libya's score on the Index of Economic Freedom is 34.5%.


Troop Surge

Swiss soldiers accidentally cross into Liechtenstein.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

And On The Heterosexual Front...

A former ACLU executive is in trouble with the law:

[Charles] Rust-Tierney admitted to investigators that he had downloaded videos and images from child pornography websites onto CD-ROMs, according to the complaint.

The videos described in the complaint depict graphic forcible intercourse with prepubescent females.

The story is being blogged by Tammy Bruce and Clayton Cramer.


Book 'Em, Danno

I wonder how long it will take for someone to blame "don't ask, don't tell" for this:

A military jury ignored an Air Force captain's plea for leniency Wednesday, sentencing him to 50 years in prison for raping four men and attempting to rape two others.

The sentence was delivered a day after nine Air Force officers serving on Capt. Devery L. Taylor's court-martial jury found him guilty of all charges against him for drugging and kidnapping servicemen he met in bars. Taylor was dismissed from the Air Force and will not be eligible for parole for 20 years.

Update: Now that I think about it, people from opposing camps will use this case as a springboard to bash "don't ask, don't tell." Some social conservatives will blame the policy because it didn't keep him out. Some social liberals might hastily suggest that military policy forcing him into the closet turned him into a rapist (parallelling the similar illogic that priestly celibacy turns men into molesters) - until they realize what portrait that paints of the gay community back when virtually all of it was closeted...


Holy Inflation, Batman

One of the orignal Batmobiles sold at auction for $233,000.

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